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CD Review: Shimmer

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I must be crazy. I’ve been darting around the Internet this afternoon, checking out other critic’s reviews of the new self-titled Shimmer CD, and mine seems to be the lone opinion. All of the reviews so far praise this record to Jah, but my impression is that this was nothing more than a mediocre project at best.

Perhaps my criteria for a successful album are just different. What I look for is originality, good songwriting, fine production values, and instrumentation that tells as much of a story as the lyricist/vocalist does. On Shimmer, vocalist/lyricist/guitarist Skip Peri gets high marks for songwriting, but incompletes for his other duties. I was bothered by Peri’s vocals and singing style, which are very similar to those of Lenny Kravitz and to a lesser extent, George Michael. Sounding like your predecessors is not a crime, unless you’re deliberately following every nuance of other admired vocalists. This might make for a fun evening in the karaoke bar, but it’s not a terribly professional approach in the big show. The funny thing is, Peri has a really fine voice and if he can develop his own chops, I think he’ll find a lot more freedom interpreting his lyrics and some more range.

While Peri may want to think about how to style his own songs, he may also want to seriously think about his guitar work and compositional skills. Every song — I mean every song — has the same choppy chord work. Yes Skip, I get it. You can play both major and minor chords over and over again. This is really a shame because Peri’s songwriting is filled with wonderful hooks, superbly crafted lines and almost painfully introspective observations. Each of these lyrical elements deserves an equally reactive musical counterpoint to compound the feeling you want to convey.

There is some fine guitar side work running through many of the songs, but recorded at almost inaudible levels. I’m not sure if this was done as a matter of artistic choice or as a way to beef up the production values, but I’d love to hear more of this work on a future album. Perhaps bringing out the musical wallop these songs can deliver will help Peri put less emphasis on his faux soul vocal stylings and bring about a rich, textured blend of deeply meaningful songs that can penetrate the fiber of the listener’s spirit. It will also allow bassist Evan Brubaker and drummer Sean Siner a lot more room to weave their consistent rhythm around some inspired guitar work.

The production, credited mostly to bassist Brubaker, is for the most part subtle but emphasizes Peri’s posturing vocals a tad too much. And most of the audio sweetening is just unnecessary. This album is an effort of Brubaker’s nascent Cake label, which has just signed a distribution deal with Sony BMG’s RED Distributors. This is my first experience with Cake’s product. Hopefully their other albums have a much more original sound to them.

So I don’t know. Maybe I’m just nuts and all the other critics are right, or perhaps I’m not as out of touch with my musical instincts as I first thought when I read the other reviews. While I’m unable to recommend this album, I’ll be happy to have other critics prove my impressions wrong.

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