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Album review: Water Over the Bridge - Phil's Rambling Rants — LiveJournal
November 19th, 2005
07:52 pm

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Album review: Water Over the Bridge
Today's album review is Water Over the Bridge by Nate Bucklin.

It's tough for me to review this album for several reasons.  First, I consider Nate a good friend, and I've been rather attached to his music for a long time; it's difficult for me to look at it objectively enough to write a review that would be useful to someone who doesn't already know Nate and his music.  Second, these songs are complex, and I don't feel that I've listened to the album enough to have fully figured them out -- but if I waited until then, I'd never write a review, and even if I did, it wouldn't be relevant to the experience of someone who happened to buy it and listen to it once or twice.  So here goes.

Musically, this album is impressive.  If you've heard Nate play live or you've heard his earlier albums, you may think you know what this would sound like, but you'd be wrong.  These arrangements are rich and full and very professional sounding.  Nate's guitar is not very prominent (except on the title track, which is the only instrumental); the main instrumental sounds are bass, fiddle, flute, and harmony vocals.  All of the arrangements sound good, and some of them really grab you and won't let go.  To be frank, the weakest point is Nate's vocals.  Nate sings on key and he enunciates clearly (which is important, because these songs have great lyrics), but his voice is harsh.  Anyone who's used to only listening to the kind of singers that get onto major labels may have trouble getting past Nate's voice.  To me, Nate sounds like Nate, and this doesn't worry me, but I'm afraid that this album isn't going to be getting much radio play.

The songs on this album are all impressive.  The tunes are good, and the lyrics are intricate, well crafted, and full of meaning.  There are a couple of funny ones, and a couple that are upbeat, but most of them have a lot of emotional pain.  They resonate so much with my own life that it's hard for me to listen to the whole album at one go.  Most of the songs are about either troubled relationships or the trouble of the lack of relationships.  There isn't a song on the album that I don't like, but at the same time, it hurts too much to listen to a string of them in a row.  I need to be able to drop one song into a mix of music now and then, but since I'm still stuck in the 1980's in my music technology, I listen to whole albums when I listen to music.

One other thing needs to be mentioned:  This album is a CD-R.  It is probably the best-packaged CD-R I've ever seen; the insert and liner notes are very well laid out; it looks as good as a lot of albums that are pressed and packaged commercially.  But it is still a CD-R, which is a bit of a disappointment to me, for the practical reason that I don't play CD-Rs in my car player (the car manual says don't do it, and I've heard that the heat in car players can degrade CD-R media), and for the emotional reason that it somehow doesn't quite count as a "real" album unless it's commercially pressed.  Intellectually, I understand the economic realities, but I can't help feeling a little bit let down.

In sum, if you're a Nate Bucklin fan, this album is of course a must have.  If you're not familiar with Nate and his music, this is a good introduction.  It's a solid album, with well written songs, well arranged and well produced.  My overall rating:  8 out of 10.

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From:markiv1111
Date:November 21st, 2005 09:01 pm (UTC)

Thanks

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Phil, I think this is as fine a review as one could get from a friend -- which isn't damning you with faint praise; I am well aware of the reality that every so often it's really difficult to be completely honest and friendly at the same time! And there's nothing in here I could possibly disagree with in any event. I did think, though, that Louie's duplication of this was just a conventional CD, duplicated onto other conventional CDs; the "word" CD-R, in this context, baffles me as I don't know how we wound up with something that can't be played on a car stereo. (We had a rental car for a few days while our car was in the shop, and played the CD -- a copy, not the original -- on the rental car's stereo several times; there didn't seem to be a problem.) If we started with the conventional CD we thought we had, and yet wound up with CD-Rs in spite of everything, we need to look at an alternative way of duplicating it, as we'd wanted to get something that was the equivalent of a commercial CD, in every respect but the fact that we'd be duplicating dozens rather than thousands.

I also think you were scrupulously fair about my singing voice. You probably know that I have a mechanical problem with my vocal apparatus -- the right-hand vocal cord vibrates at only half the speed of the left, the two cords don't meet in the middle, and Dr. Merrill Biel couldn't figure out how I was getting any sound at all. So I feel proud that I'm doing any singing, but certainly, most people who are interested in fine singing voices would be playing just about any CD but my own! I do know one disc jockey in Mankato, Minnesota, an old college friend -- perhaps we'll see whether Pete agrees with you that I'm not likely to get airplay. I think "Starmaker" would be a song for him to try, since so much of it is Becca and Louie singing, rather than me. But that'll be his call.

In any event, thanks for everything, and let's see if this fine review results in my getting a bit more interest from our LJ friends.

Nate Bucklin
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 21st, 2005 09:40 pm (UTC)

CD-R

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Louie just dropped by my work to drop off my lunch, which I'd neglected to bring when I left the house this morning. I informed her that you'd let me know that this was a CD-R rather than a conventional CD. Her first thought was to be flabbergasted and wishing somebody had let her know sooner. Her second thought was: No, that doesn't sound right. She needs to continue with her work day today (personal care attendant for psychiatrically disabled individuals, with a lot of driving) but is going to call our sound engineer, Mark D. Sterling, to see what he has to say. I am going to be very, very chagrined if we need to replace the CDs we've already sold with CDs that are better duplicated!

Also, though, there is a question: How do you know that we sold you a CD-R rather than a CD? I would be quite relieved if you were just plain wrong, but I don't know how you got this information in the first place. Please enlighten us.

Regards,


Nate
From:markiv1111
Date:November 21st, 2005 09:46 pm (UTC)

CD-R

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This comment may wind up showing up twice -- I'm not clear whether or not the previous time I wrote it has wound up on LJ or not -- but there's a mild update anyway. Our sound engineer, Mark D. Sterling, has confirmed that this is a CD-R, but also says that "CD-Rs played on car stereos will ruin them" (either the stereo or the CD-R) is an urban myth; it's something some people believe, that has no basis whatever in fact, and the CD-R-ness of it all should make no difference whatever. I am thoroughly relieved, as Mark should know.

Nate
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From:tigertoy
Date:November 21st, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC)

Re: CD-R

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Any CD that's not made by commercial pressing equipment, including any CD made in a computer drive, is a CD-R. Commercial pressing requires using expensive equipment with setup costs, and normally you cannot get less than 1000 made at a time (I guess a few places will charge you for 1000 and only make 500, but that's no help). If an album isn't going to sell enough copies to make the up-front cost ($1000 to $2000 for 1000 CDs, the last I heard) tenable, or they won't sell fast enough, CD-R is the only choice. I'd like to see your album sell well enough, and quickly enough, that you could handle the cost, but it's your business decision, not mine. (If I hadn't been unemployed for the last year, I would have been happy to front the money. And if cows had wings, we'd need really heavy duty umbrellas.)

As for CD-Rs in car stereos -- when I pop a disk out of my car player, it is quite hot to the touch. I don't know if it's really hot enough to shorten the life of the media, but I do know I'm not going to test it on something valuable. I'm fairly certain that it's not hot enough that a CD-R will not work after one play, but I'm not so sure about 100 plays.
From:markiv1111
Date:November 22nd, 2005 09:47 pm (UTC)

Re: CD-R

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I talked a bit more with Mark Sterling. Hot CDs or no hot CDs, he is still of the opinion that this is *completely* an urban legend. Louie and I, though, have also talked, and want to let you and the people who read your reviews (not to mention everybody else) know that if one of our CDs goes bad, we will replace it at no charge (including reimbursing your shipping expenses) as soon as possible (72-hour turnaround time or less). Given this commitment on our part, I'm going to be very curious as to whether your copy of *Water Over the Bridge* goes bad played in your car stereo; given how well I know Mark (a total expert) my bets are with him.
(He did say, though, that if there was such a thing as a CD player that would be hazardous to a CD-R and not to other CDs, it would have to be a very old car stereo. I'm not sure what to do with this bit.)

Nate
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From:tigertoy
Date:November 23rd, 2005 12:42 am (UTC)

Re: CD-R

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I will put it in the car CD collection, then, and I'll let you know if I have any trouble.
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From:ericcoleman
Date:November 22nd, 2005 10:50 pm (UTC)

Re: CD-R

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I have a CD car carrier that holds over a 100 CDs, all of which are CDRs, none of which have ever gone bad, and many quite a few years old now.
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