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Music Review: Ampline – Rosary

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While there are quite a lot of things I happen to like about Ampline’s new CD Rosary, there are also quite a few things that leave me cold. Oddly enough, the number one item on both lists happens to be the same, which is why I can’t figure out if I love this CD or if it just falls short.

What is number one? The fact that Ampline is an instrumental rock-band, that’s what.

Kevin Schmidt, bassist and sole remaining founding member of the band, is quoted on Ampline.net as saying that “after years of playing in bands” he came to appreciate the beauty of “simply writing and playing music, regardless of whether or not some jerk wanted to stand out front holding a microphone.” Five years after the initial creation of the band — and a few lineup changes and released records later — finding a singer seems even less of an issue than ever before, according to the band’s bio on Ampline.net.

Along with the two other current members of Ampline, Rick McCarty (drums) and Mike Montgomery (guitar), Schmidt seems to have found some truth to his idea that you don’t need a lead singer to make good compelling music.

Case in point: the newly released Rosary. Almost every song on this album is a very solid and well-structured song that definitely takes the listener on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Whether up-tempo and charging full speed ahead like “Paper Tiger,” or moody and seemingly introspective like “Our Hunted Names,” Rosary is an album that screams out the talent and professionalism of all its components.

Unfortunately, for me at least, it is also an album that urgently whispers frustration, as without the lyrics and added emotionality of a singer, the songs are lovely as they are immediately playing in my eardrum, but are then forgettable.

You won’t find me casually humming any of these melodies in a grocery store, or as I’m driving about in my car — because I can’t remember them.

I’ll freely admit, though, that this could be a limitation on my part. Maybe I’ve been coddled into submission by all the more typical rock records I’ve listened to all of my life. Maybe I’ve conditioned my mind to only seek out the comfortable and familiar, and shy away from something I can’t grasp immediately. Maybe…

While it isn’t necessarily my personal cup of tea, I am by no means saying that this is a record that shouldn’t be heard. Instead, I am writing this review as both a way for me to acknowledge my own limitations and as a way of bringing to your attention a record that might otherwise be missed.

If you are willing to take on the challenge of Ampline’s Rosary, I can at least promise you that you’ll hear an album crafted with an obvious love of music and musicianship. Who knows? Maybe there will be one (or more) of you out there who are looking for just that sort of unique and genuine experience?

Summary: Good album. Good band. I just wish there were a stronger vocal element other than the odd phrase or sentence sung throughout the album.

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