There is something so simplistic yet bold about the cover art for Daniel Mandel’s (featuring S. Henry McCoy) album Enlightened Madness – the colorful text comprising each song title artfully splayed across all four corners of the cover speaks volumes about what waits within. Okay, so I donned my lyric interpretation hat when I started listening to “The Train Knows Where to Go.” I just know, deep in my heart, that the train just has to be a metaphor for something, but I don’t want to make any sweeping assumptions. The music does a good job of laying the foundation, a purpose that serves well for deeper lyrics such as these and keeps your attention focused.
You can literally hear each string being plucked and each key (is that a saxophone?) being pressed in “Candle Girl” – an effect that you only can get in acoustic songs. This song has the trifecta of intriguing music, grounded male vocals and operatic female vocals. I typically only hear this kind of music in movies, which is a real shame, as this is an almost breathtakingly beautiful song.
“Hide” slinks in next, and like the first song on the album, keeps the music minimalist so that the vocals can take the front stage. Anyone who considers themselves shy or introverted will find that this song speaks particularly loudly to them.
“One Dark Night” is delightfully somber, and if I’m not mistaken, is a very apt ode to Beast from “Beauty and the Beast.” The lyrics are filled with hints that also nod in that direction. This leans deeply towards the alternative side and I expected to hear crashing thunderstorms at its conclusion.
Bravo on the violin and piano cameos in “Lovely Empty Strong and Brave.” It sounds like the music of early 90’s rhythm and blues but with some folk in there. I loved the direction this song went in, and the incredibly unique sound it had. The guitar riff in “Possessed In Poses” is intricate and creative, and sounds so well with the particularities of the vocal placement. The piano comes back to play again here and it is careful to accentuate but not overpower the guitar.
“Slow Blue” eased in just the way I thought a song by that title would, but I was completely swept away by the addition of the saxophone, which harkened to my smooth jazz senses. The saxophone player has some serious chops and really added a cool dimension to this song, and the album as a whole. “Find Me A Lover” sets some of the most impossible yet admirable qualifications to be found in a mate, and also features a really complex guitar riff with a saliva inducing solo at the end to take the album home.
I still am not entirely convinced that Enlightened Madness is not a movie soundtrack – though I really wish it was, because a movie with sounds this good would have to be epic. No two songs are just alike here and the wide array of instruments, vocal tunes and arrangements used here attest to the creativity of the two men who put this all together. I look forward to hearing the other work that they release!
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