Clocking in at slightly over an hour, the fifteen music tracks (plus a spoken “liner note” track called “Thanks,” which is exactly that) assembled here represent some of the most complete, satisfying musicianship that I’ve had the pleasure to experience in recent memory. Well written and well presented, every track has a clear theme, purpose, evolution and satisfying conclusion – no endlessly looped fade outs here.
Tod, an extremely accomplished musician, handles all lead and backing vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, keyboards (used sparingly and to great effect – don’t get scared!), acoustic, baritone and bass guitars. Whew! He does leave the drumming in the hands (and feet) of the very able Dave Aaron, and the lightening fingered Jamie Eden steps up to the plate for both lead and rhythm guitar work on eight of the album’s tracks.
Put all that together, simmer for two to three years to make sure all components are aged to perfection, serve LOUD, and you have the musical masterpiece otherwise known as West of Eight. I am not exaggerating when I say West of Eight has not left my cd changer since I received it. Read on for my review of some of the album highlights (I have to leave you some surprises).
West of Eight: “I’m finally home/I’ve traveled far but here I am/West of eight,” sings Tod on this kick ass album opener in which he extols the virtues of his home, San Diego. However, the song avoids being a maudlin “tribute” to home sweet home by allowing for the listener to come away with their own impression of whether or not the song is actually signing the praises of the familiar – home is where the heart is? – or referencing home as a sanctuary (retreat?) from the brutal surroundings of the “outside” world. Either way, there’s definitely a “secret” revealed. The secret? Well, “Dorothy had the secret all along/seldom should you venture from your home.” This track rocks along relentlessly, instilling a feel of urgency in the need to return “home”, with Jamie Eden weighing in with the first of several extremely impressive guitar performances, whetting your appetite for what’s to come.
Valley of Artifice: What an absolutely awesome showcasing of Tod’s vocal abilities! From the velvety purr of the verses to the desperate wail of the choruses Tod gives the pipes a true workout on this saga, which recounts the experience (hopefully fiction!) of being broken down in the hot desert of the “valley of artifice.” The crunching rhythm guitar chords