If you can imagine a style of music where Elvis Costello meets Jesus Christ Superstar (the musical play, not the real man of course), coupled with early Genesis and other art/prog rock influences and mixed with contemporary classical music, then you’ll have something called Head Above Tide. Jason Vitelli creates a style and finesse all his own. Indeed, his latest 16-song venture features dramatic and highly interesting arrangements and well executed songwriting that I thought was intriguing. With the help of seven other recording artists, Vitelli has put together songs that center on “facing diversity and overcoming obstacles” and teach the listener about “the human condition through song.”
The album starts with a piano intro on “Hit and Run” straight out it seems, from Jesus Christ, Superstar. This one has a very entertaining arrangement to be sure, but I wondered if it was about an actual hit and run accident or simply metaphoric. “Fault Lines” is the first of many songs featuring fantastic backing vocals with a little soul and strings added. This one sounded to me like old Genesis when Peter Gabriel fronted the band.
“The Persecuted” is a rock/jazz fusion number, which lyrically, could be about any culture or group that gets treated unfairly. The next song “(descension)” is an instrumental that has a spookiness to it that I liked a lot. “Labyrinthine” tells a story, a dramatic fantasy of some kind, and musically it’s very theatrical. One of my favorites is the next song, “Living Proof” – the strings are gorgeous as is the piano, the bell chimes. Lyrically, it seems to come from a children’s storybook. “D-Day” sounds like a folksy-hippie melody from the musical Hair and Vitelli adds the album’s title at the end. Some eye opening lines to this number may make you stop and think – “Rat droppings now cover the floor of which we can’t scotch-guard / As we’ve ingested our own poison.”
“Welcome to My Life, Healing” is a cool, soulful reggae tune with keyboards, beautiful backing vocals and some scatting vocals. Another all instrumental is “(ascension)” and this one was just Vitelli on piano and it is short but very nice. The lyrics on “Trees” suggest a soul-searching story of redemption, hope and inspiration. A dramatic ending with guitar solo can be heard on this one. From what I could tell about “Pinwheel” lyrically, it could be about a car as a metaphor for….? well, I don’t know. Musically, this one reminds me of ‘70s piano soul, like something from Carole King.
“Autumn Hype” is an ode to high ideal and values. Acoustic guitar, alto sax and a nice jazzy, mellow feel can be heard here. “Propagate” features great low sounds of strings, lots of layers and arrangements that kept the song moving and tempo changes as well. Lyrically, this tune seems to be asking deeper questions pertaining to mortality and a man’s legacy. “Vacant” is a lounge, jazz number with lots of scatting vocals. Vitelli changes things up well between contemporary jazz and the more traditional jazz styles.
“Three Marionettes” another song featuring fantastic backing vocals, also has a funky drumbeat and a plethora of words. Not sure if this one is about a lion in a testing lab, or in a zoo putting on show – or is this another song with metaphor – your call. Lastly, Vitelli sings about a captain about to overthrown on “A Mutiny” or at least that’s what I got from this one. Humorous in a dark way, “and the seasick sailors / lock step into a psychopathic tango” the song ends this uniquely entertaining album.
Vitelli’s lyrics do get quite deep at times and some song’s messages seemed a little baffling to me. But, don’t let that stop you from listening to this remarkably talented, multi-instrumentalist who steps outside the boundaries of standard genre.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook