Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I Am Not Drinking The Gary Clark Jr. Kool-Aid
I am dumbfounded.
The buzz about Gary Clark Jr. before, during and after the release of his "Bright Lights" E.P. has been deafening. Friends, critics, even Eric Clapton have heaped praise on this gentleman. I wasn't sold on that E.P. and his new full length, "Blak & Blu" ain't helping.
This record is a mess. It is misguided--maybe producer Rob Cavallo's fault-- and filled with as much crap as there is good. And even the good isn't all that.
Twenty seconds or so into the opening track, "Ain't Messin 'Round," I got up off the couch to make sure I was sent the right CD. Expecting to hear a Texas blues man that has been compared to both Jimi and Stevie Ray, what I heard was something that would not have been out of place as the opening dance number to an 80s variety show. This was Gary Clark Jr. alright. What the hell?
It got better fast with the second cut, "When My Train Pulls In," a slow, dirty groove more like "Red House" than the Captain & Tennille. I love this tune and especially Clark's guitar-playing, even if by the 6th minute, the jam gets a bit lost as each band member seems to be playing its own song. Still, a vast improvement from the opener. Maybe it will be okay.
Track 3, the title cut, is a slick R&B tune, with a co-write credit given to Clark, Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson, and the type of stuff John Legend is made of. Clark can't pull it off vocally, and it's just not very good.
By the fifth cut, "Travis County," my head was spinning. Now I'm listening to Dave Edmunds? What the hell?
By the sixth cut, "The Life," easily the worst of what I've heard so far, replete with autotune and hip-hop beats, I've decided that even if the second half of "Blak & Blu" turned in some fabulous music, the first 30 minutes will have already made it no better than an average release.
Fear not, it does not get much better.
"Glitter & Gold" is exactly what poor Lenny Kravitz has been doing for years and getting trashed for.
"Numb" is more like what I'd been expecting, Hendrix-inspired, but a little too late.
On "Please Come Home," Clark employs a falsetto for a 50's, doo-wop pastiche that falls about as flat as his attempt at a Maroon 5 hit on track 6.
I'm done, and there are still 4 more songs, 6 if you count the iTunes bonus tracks. No need to go on, as I don't think I am ever coming back.
At best, this major label debut is a genre-hopping, safely-played collection of tunes, guaranteed to appeal to someone. At worst, it's a Lenny Kravitz record with a better guitar player.