Friday, January 8, 2016

The Man From RavCon "Skyscraper" CD review

Review by Noel Squitieri, taken from
The Man From RavCon is Mike Brown, formerly lead singer and guitarist for The Ravelers. These days, Mike is making his extraordinary music on his own. And a fine collection of records he’s been producing. Skyscraper is his latest, and perhaps most inventive. Though known for some pretty cool Spaghetti-Western music, The Man From RavCon has also created records that transcend that genre. The Traveler is an exquisite record that weaves marvelous melodies throughout a sentimental journey into the past. Night of the Beast is a soundtrack to an unmade horror film. Which leads me back to Skyscraper.

All the songs are lovely to hear and well-produced and performed. Sometime through my second time playing it, I started to think of Skyscraper as a journey through time and space, to real and imaginary places the music created in my mind’s eye. What triggered this thought was quite suddenly imagining I was in the hot-air balloon pictured in the gorgeous and evocative cover painting by Tyler Strouth. This thought, that I was soaring through a space-scape created by the music I was hearing, changed how I heard the songs. What follows are my reactions to the music in that context, as the music inspires them.

“Balloon” begins the journey. If you’ve ever soared in a hot-air balloon, or maybe even flown slowly in an open-cockpit biplane, the sensations the music recreates are true to a calm flight over breathtaking scenery on a perfect day. At once, soothing and exciting.

But you are high up in the air, unattached to anything solidly planted to the ground. “Cloud Teaser” is a complete change of atmosphere. Now you’re really flying, up, around, down and back up.

I love the music-box effect that begins “Secret Passage”. Ever dream of flying though an unknown mountain pass into an unknown valley? If you ever do, play this song. It will fit the mood and expectations.

Another romantic melody is the centerpiece of “The Spring of Our Content”. Lush and gorgeous, it’s serene, thoughtful, and beautiful. Sentimental. We’re really daydreaming now. I wish it were longer.

From the liner notes, ““Friend” is dedicated to James “Frank” Rick (1965 – 2013). I’ll save you a copy buddy.” The song is melancholy, and yet not sad. It’s like a reminiscence tinged with a fond good-bye. Too many happy memories mixed with a longing for a reunion some place and time this dream-voyage can’t quite go.

“Veni, Vidi, Vici” is Latin for “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Unless you’re a Roman Emperor, it’s also a motto fit for living a full, complete, worthy life; a life facing squarely and not broken by trials and tribulations. I stood and still stand tall, the song declares! It sounds more traditionally like earlier Man From RavCon efforts. It’s a bold melodic song in three parts, one for each theme; arrival, bold exploration, and then confidently facing the day.

“Higher” is a darker, moody song. A bold life is a perilous journey, not for the faint-hearted. But the determined never quit, they keep going on. You never know what’s over the next mountain range if you don't go over it. So you climb higher and higher, until you’ve surpassed the summit. The song is like that. The view from the highest reaches is breath-taking, peaceful. And worth the effort. Always.
“Skycraper”. Ever wanted to soar to the edge of space, to touch the top of the sky, or go beyond it? Look down and see all that is below, that was surpassed and overcome to reach those heights. How would you feel? Victorious, humble, insignificant, proud, awed, reverent? These emotions are conveyed in this song. I have climbed so high and touched the sky. Beyond the sky is space. Do we keep going?

Then comes “The Fugitive”, the title of which implies there may be something unauthorized about this journey to the edge of space. There are moments of grandeur in this song that hint at something more. Then the song becomes urgent, the pace speeds up and the music conveys a sense of threat. Then, a rest before it begins again. Okay, it’s a song, not a screen-play. But drama builds in moments of peacefulness, and events spring as surprises upon the unwatchful and unprepared. Cool song.

The track list includes these nine songs, but there is another on the CD. I leave it up to the reader to discover it. But trust me, it’s worth it. Just might be the coolest song on the entire record. If your player is set to repeat, Balloon will begin as if it’s the end of the last song. Almost as if it was intended that way.

Skyscraper has two meanings. One is the very tall buildings or other objects so high they almost scrape the sky, but the other refers to the person who climbs high enough to reach out and touch the sky.

Skyscraper is a journey of the imagination to wherever yours will lead you. These are my own reactions. You will have your own. I highly recommend you take the flight.

The Man From Ravcon is on Surf Guitar 101 here.
On Facebook here.

The Man From RavCon is at CDBaby here.

Skyscraper is also at Deep Eddy Records here.

The Traveler is also at Double Crown Records here.

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