Elevated Man by Sean McMorris is a concept album of folk/power-pop about a man in a flying lawn chair. There are elements of at least three Beatles present in the songwriting, atmosphere and performance, as well as some other power pop and folk icons.
The title track opens the album by introducing the title character over George Harrison like harmonies and melodies. In the background subtle shakers and organs sweep under crisp snare work and a soaring vocal melody. The texture is thick, but each instrument finds their place and the pedal steel solo is a nice touch. “Bent Out Of Shape” is built around quarter note guitar strums in McCartney-like fashion. The vocal has a smoky whiskey-soaked quality to it, which adds some nice grit to jazzy guitar countermelodies and sweeping organ. The song abandons the traditional verse/chorus format and makes for an interesting journey from the major A section to a minor B section which features some guitar heroics over a descending line. It works well and is a nice contrast.
“Unspoken” has a Tom Petty quality to the vocal inflections and guitar tones, though seen through some more Don Henley eyes. Over a 12/8 groove, an arpeggiating electric guitar plays countermelodies throughout while the pedal steel adds tones that almost imitate a string section. The synth solo is a surprise but exists well within the atmosphere that’s been created, adding interest. “Sweet Sarah Ruth” opens with minor jazz chords and falling piano notes before opening up to mellotron flutes and strings. There’s an epic quality that each of these tones bring, but the lyrics and vocal delivery stand up to the challenge and makes for an emotional powerhouse.
“Peace Of Mind” has a John Lennon quality to the melody. Under accordion, a lone acoustic guitar is fingerpicked giving an intimate performance. “You Can Run” has some interesting uneven phrases in the verse that keep it interesting. Again, the country like harmonies in the chorus are well performed with the pedal steel weaving in and out keeping the roots feel. “Broken Glass” falls neatly into late ‘70s singer/songwriter/southern California territory. High glassy organ notes chime while pedal steel lines interject and an electric piano comps the rhythm. The chorus in particular is very catchy, with a great melodic hook on the words, “Yesterday’s gone, a thousand tomorrows couldn’t bring you back.”
Not all of the songs are as successful. “Lay Down” is driven by acoustic guitar with haunting pedal steel flying in and around the melody in a ghost like way. The harmonies are nice, supporting long legato notes similar to The Jayhawks. The middle of the song opens up into some Townshend-esque power chords while an ostinado acoustic guitar figure comes forward before giving way to a pedal steel solo. Each section of the song is interesting, but some of the transitions between the sections are a little abrupt. Whirlwind combines an R&B chunk with some Alice In Chains like descending lines. The combination of the swelling organ and melodic bass line channels McCartney again. The groove is smart, but goes on a bit long without building. The album closes with “’Tis” over a Spector-ish beat and long organ pads, carefully annunciated words spill out before building to the harmonies of the chorus. It works as a conclusion for the concept that was established previously.
Overall, Elevated Man has some wonderful production and performances on it. Adding a little more grit to some songs might add some contrast and push them even further.
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