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Music Revew: Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra – Honker

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“You can’t always get what you want.
 But if you try sometime you might find
 You get what you need.”  — Jagger and Richards

This CD was not what I expected.  That can be taken two ways.  
I tried and discovered that Honker is not what I need.

I did agree with Ethan Lipton on two of his quotes from the press release.  “It started with me just singing, which was a bad idea by anyone’s estimation, especially my own.”  Lipton’s voice is not a velvet smooth Mel Torme or Steve Lawrence and it isn’t billed as such.  Even though I enjoy the sounds of such artists as Bob Dylan, Leon Redbone, and Randy Newman, for some reason Ethan Lipton’s voice didn’t appeal to me.

Was it not gritty enough?  Did it lack a sufficient edginess to make it more interesting?  Maybe because of my initial expectation of little or no vocals left me predisposed to a lack of acceptance of any.  To be fair to Lipton, there are published reports that he has a loyal fan base right where he wants it, in New York City.  

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“I tried to leave more room for the band in the compositions, and they rose to the challenge, filling that space with virtuosity.”  Ethan Lipton did in fact make excellent choices in selecting the members of his “orchestra”.  I particularly enjoyed the work of saxophonist, Vito Dieterle, and can only wish that Lipton had left the band even more space for their virtuosity.  None of the tracks include more than a few bars of solos by the various musicians, and one track, “Hippies” was done entirely a capella.  

“I think sweet, grumpy little New York could use a hometown band, and if there’s anything we’re trying to become, it’s that.”  Ethan Lipton has lofty goals here and I applaud him for it. If you don’t shoot high enough, you’ll never achieve the Andy Warhol benchmark of fifteen minutes.  Success doesn’t come easy in any market and the New York entertainment scene is daunting.  The seeds of greatness are here and need to be cultivated with more music and less vocals.  Lipton’s work may be like scotch; you have to acquire a taste for it.  Maybe New Yorkers will acquire that taste and choose him as their hometown band.

Track four, “You were right + it’s OKAY” has lyrics with which I can identify.  “Most of us love you anyway, and the few of us who don’t, don’t really get cha.” Count me in with those who “don’t really get cha”.

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