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CD REVIEW: Bob Lien - Paradigm Shift
By Cyrus Rhodes - 02/15/2011 - 12:51 AM EST

Artist: Bob Lien
Album: Paradigm Shift
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Acoustic folk/pop
Sounds Like: Don McLean, Jack Johnson,
Technical Grade: 5/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 5/10
Commercial Value: 5/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Road from Yesterday, Bless the Broken Road. Little Mando Diddy
Weakness: Amateurish Production Quality (Recording, Mixing, Mastering) Dry & Repetitive sounding catalogue, Winded Songs.
CD Review:

Eugene Oregon’s own Bob Lien releases his latest CD entitled Paradigm Shift in 2010. Bob is no stranger to the Music Business having been performing in San Francisco over the past decade Lien recently moved to Oregon where he set up shop. This is his 3rd release to date.

The CD gently takes flight with Track 1 “Fiction” a slow building into piece that flows & ebbs its way through to emotional fruition with its delicate acoustic guitar rhythm, well placed guitar ambience & heart felt vocal delivery from Lien. Track 2 “Without Having Flown” is a passionate ballad that serves up hypnotic flowing guitar accents against hooky melody & well placed vocal harmonies. Track 3 “When I Was Young” dishes out yet another thought provoking piece of music with its driving rock rhythm, catchy vocal hooks & hypnotic musical groove. As the CD slowly unfolds, I can hear many different musical textures reminiscent of such classic Jack Johnson, Dan Wilson, Doug Martsch & even Don McLean. The music itself is an impressive blend of progressive rock, folk & alternative rock. Lien’s voice is full of passion, reckless abandon, vulnerability & bold honesty. Equally as impressive are some of the lush vocal harmonies, guitar ambience, mandolin, & sonic touches layered within the music. The songwriting is extremely creative & highly original. Each song possessing a unique personality, flair & signature groove. Many of the songs have a theatrical intensity about them making for a very entertaining listening experience. I especially like how the whole CD just flows across the ears song for song & note for note. From Hypnotic “Road to Yesterday” to passionate “Fail Safe” & “Daddy Gaze” to earthy “As we Fall” &celtic “Little Mando Diddy”  this CD has something for just about everyone. I especially like the sad but true statements like “Road from Yesterday” & “Bless the Broken Heart” here we see the true songwriting brilliance of Lien shine through with crystal clarity. The CD ends with Prelude the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.  

This CD is not without a few notable weaknesses. Despite the truly great performances & impressive songwritting, it’s fair to say there is something odd going on with this production. Zeroing in on the recording, mixing & mastering – I suspect it’s the recording, mixing & mastering. It’s pretty all over the place & lacks the ability to grab the listener. From vocals sound disproportionate to the music, to odd sounding harmonies, awkward sounding drum recording & low end punch & solo’s guitar that sounds buried – this mix has all the trademarks of an amateurish basement mix job.  Because of this substandard mix - the attention span of the listener is extremely challenged. It clearly doesn’t compare to other mixes within this genera & just sounds extremely amateurish lacking luster. If the mix was industry standard this CD would clearly be a 10 on a 10 scale. Mixing will always be the biggest make or break for any production. When done right will leave a lasting impression, when not done right will stick out like a sore thumb. Each phase of the production process (recording, mixing, mastering) should be handled seperately by an experienced professional – especially the mix. It’s safe to say if the any stage is not done properly, the whole production effort will be for not. For the record the liner notes read “Recorded, performed, & mastered by Bob Lien.” All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. It’s also fair to say the catalogue is a bit repetitive.  Perhaps more instrumentation is needed to bring more musical variety to the table. Things like percussive accents, horns, flutes, industrial accents, piano, moog, anything to spice up the production value a bit - making it less dry. If this review sounds lopsided it merely reflects the extremes presented on Paradigm Shift.

Overall Paradigm Shift by Bob Lien is an extremely compelling catalogue of music. It’s strong suit – the amazing amount of originality, & creativity this CD has to offer. Like the aforementioned I especially enjoyed the theatrical earthy drama of the catalogue. All in all Bob Lien stands out from other artists with his unique signature sound & overall songwritting prowess. Make no bones about it Lien is a brilliant composer. When he surrounds himself with a production team that matches his current writing level, it will no doubt be a truly breathtaking musical experience.

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