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.

WRONG!

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.

16 comments:

Gyro1966 said...

I saw him perform a free show at Bearsville Theater last year. It was a total snoozefest. Nothing at all interesting about his music.

John Saeger said...

I couldn't figure out what this record was supposed to be, there are flashes of greatness, but overall it sucked

Jeff Matthews said...

So disappointing. I actually liked the first track - the falsetto was cool I thought and I liked the sixties chord patterns and horns. What a let down.

A walk in the woods said...

I want to disagree, mainly on the strength of his earlier song "Breakdown," which has been my theme song this past year - love this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9foUD9c34g

BUT... I saw him live in ATL a few months ago, and (sorry if anybody's a frat guy here) but when I saw the number of college-football-caps in the crowd, and perceived the frat love for this guy, I knew it wasn't going to work.

Sure enough, it didn't work. Snoozefest. Nothing great on guitar, and lots of cliched moves to go with it, including every version of "I'm a blues guy so I am in pain, can you see?" in the cliche book...

It's a shame too, because he has some good stuff. It's like with Clapton - I actually (sacreligiously) prefer his cod-reggae tunes (Knockin On Heaven's Door, Swing Low Sweet Chariot) and pop tunes (Change The World) to anything bluesy he does.

Same with Gary Clark. I love his power pop song "Breakdown" like I said, but just don't care for the blues cliches, sir. Dang! It's too bad, because I WANT a new artist to get really excited about...

Instead, that artist is White Denim - best band on the planet right now...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqP0Nv_4MUs

kevin m said...

Wow! As I posted previously, I liked the single I heard on FUV. And I remember RS giving a 4 star review to his debut cd but I never got around to that.

So I was really looking forward to this release. Now maybe not so much.

Gyro1966 said...

Sal - I give you a lot of credit for taking the time to review the new albums, and making that the theme of your blog. It comes in handy for me at times as well. But stop by one of these months at Twilightzone and listen to a collection like The R&B Years 1954 or 1955. Play the entire 100 song collection. Then let me know if you can even remember Gary Clark Jr.'s name or his music after that.

Sal Nunziato said...

Sorry Gyro, Gary who?

;)

ASH On The Beat said...

Can't agree more Sal. Kravitz came to mind for me too.

Gyro1966 said...

Sal - I see the new Neil Young on the web, I want to read your reaction to it.

Big Jim Slade said...

Just because he can play 10 styles doesn't mean he should. Yeesh. I'll hold out a little hope that he finds his own thing, but I won't put money on it.

Good luck with Sandy!

Robert Simkus, Jr. said...

Gary Clark Jr. Sucks!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Simkus.

Anonymous said...

I saw him a week ago in Portland. What a fucking waste of time and money!!! Boring as hell ... with zero crowd interaction. Will never buy tickets to see him again.

Jim Blackwood said...

Of course he sucks,thats why Clapton invited him to play at the Crossroads Festival.You would'nt know good guitar playing if it punched you in your face..

Sal Nunziato said...

Hey Jim Blackwood--

Didn't Clapton invite Sheryl Crow to Crossroads? I'm pretty sure she's not such a great guitar player either.

Anonymous said...

Jim Blackwood...great. So, you're wrong. And, you wouldn't know it even if it.....wait for it....punched you in the face. Where's GAry now...certainly not on the radio.