So Alex Cross is a jazz pianist from Philly. Keep this in mind when you listen to some of this album. Cross excelled in music at an early age, inspired by the saturation of his talented family, singers and instrumentalists alike. He started studying piano seriously, attending prestigious schools and working with renowned instructors. At one point, during winter break, he decided to put some of his efforts into recording Here and Now. Make the break go by faster. What happened was more than he expected. It was an outpouring of everything he'd been exposed to - jazz/rock/pop. And in those days of recording, some special things were happening. Let's get into it.
"The Enemy In Me" starts off setting the tone with a down-tuned angry riff, warbling in a chunky effect station. I like this sound a lot personally, and would expect some wild movements to follow. After the intro, however, things are placed on the back burner for a little while and a general rock song crawls through to the surface. The time shifts from 4/4 to 5/4 and I really appreciate that especially when it works so well. Throughout the song the guitar stays fierce, the drums right on the beat – programmed through software, but do what you gotta do – and the vocals take flight whether the support is necessarily there or not. Nobody should shy away from daring harmonies and upper range wails when they can hit the notes, but maybe some multi tracking could help. It's almost there. The sound is evolving away from rock and more into contemporary melodic ideas with "Brand New Dawn.” Mood setting chords and washy drums with quick sputter bass beats, wide thinking contemplative motion and some ear piquing runs on the keys.
"Someday" is some kind of pop ballad. That's the closest assimilation I can think of. The vocals push a little too far for ear's comfort and it's hard to take seriously considering the content of the first track. Continuity suffers a little bit – bring some abrasiveness to this track and I think it could thrive in that highly contrasted environment. Core music with bright heartfelt intention isn't seen every day. Just a thought. Now we're back to the rough sounding guitar and dirt in your eyes expectations with the final track of the album "Disappear.” The piano is definitely a tool that Cross uses to his advantage. He has a great ability to hear song structure and execute it at a level that begs for more attention. I think the loud, soft, loud theory works very well here, if it's not broke don't fix it. Remember back to the early 90’s of Nirvana and Smells Like Teen Spirit? That's where it started. Bring in the heavy, take it down for an intimate verse, then bring that stuff back in even harder. Emotions people. That's what “Disappear” is about.
This album has some focused and well-crafted material, I'm honestly impressed with the layers that each song creates and the story that is painted through the moods that intermingle from one track to the next. It satisfies an eclectic taste ranging from hard rock with a decent flavor to an almost sappy pop ballad. It's through this wide range that Alex showcases what inspires him and what he can relate to within songwriting. As I said, this work has some very positive potential if put in the right hands. It needs a stronger voice and an emphasis on one style; my opinion is leaning toward the harder edge. Also, production would be a huge improvement. I can hear what these songs would sound like and it's miles above where they are – and where they are is pretty damn good. So hats off for kicking ass with what you've got Mr. Cross. You've got riffs, good ideas and brave vocals.
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