CD REVIEW: Ken Dixon - Motives
By Cyrus Rhodes - 12/27/2011 - 12:18 AM EST
Artist: Ken Dixon
Label: Lonely Llama Music
Genre: Alternative Folk/Pop
Sounds Like: They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, Beetles
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Flat Earth, Becky’s Queer, It’s Not You
Weakness: Slightly winded songs, overly eccentric lyrical content
Alternative rocker Ken Dixon releases his latest CD entitled Motives I 2011. The line-up: Ken Dixon (Vocals, Guitar, Piano) , Craig Bartock (Guitars, Bass, Synths, Piano, String Arrangements), Scot Coogan (Drums), Charlie Gillingham, Juan Covarrubias and Alan Wittmer (Piano).
The CD gently takes off with “Motives” a passionate intro piece that serves up impressive musical build, well placed piano and vocal harmonies against a passionate vocal presence from Dixon. This first is quite dynamic as it flows & ebbs its way through to emotional fruition thus leading the listener into Track 2: “Useful Idiots” this piece shifts gears a bit with driving rock rhythm, psychedelic guitar and hypnotic vocal and keyboard ambiences. Track 3 “Wire Mother Monkey” keeps thing moving in the right direction with its infectious groove, highly original lyrical content and grand slam chorus. The CD makes a great first impression dishing out 3 solid songs in a row. The musicianship of everyone involved is clearly above the bar. Along the way you will notice lush instrumentation with things like impressive guitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizer, string arrangements, lush harmonies and impressive rhythm section. As this CD slowly unfolds it obvious the players in Iris’s band are quite accomplished. Kudos goes out to the impressive musical and production contribution by Craig Bartock. Now turning our attention over to Dixon- as for his vocal abilities, his voice works extremely well within the confines of this catalogue. His voice goes down smooth and reminds me of a cross between John Lennon and John Flansburgh (They Might be Giants) but fills the space peacefully and unobtrusively. Music reminds me of They Might Be Giants, Bare Naked Ladies, even the Beetles and XTC. I might add the production quality is first rate from top to bottom. The mix is superb with solid low end punch and crystal clear high end clarity. All songs are extremely well crafted and consistent across the board. From enlightening “Flat Earth”, to catchy ”Ignorance is Bliss” to grooving “Violent World”, to comically striking “Becky’s Queer” and “It’s not You” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “The Singularity” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
Many songs are clever indeed but it’s fair to say some of any of the lyrics are a bit quirk, over the top and even overly eccentric. There comes a time where left to their own devices some artists and their eccentricity can go beyond enlightening and becomes somewhat confusing. At the end of the day some of this is hard to relate to and I doubt a mass audience will have trouble identifying with some of it. All song over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line.
From start to finish “Motives” by Ken Dixon is an impressive collection of music. The music is highly original, thought provoking, amazingly witty and just plain entertaining to listen to. The songwriting – world class, all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair and signature groove. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire CD. The writing ad playing abilities of Ken Dixon and company are rock solid. My hats off to Craig Bartock who not only played (Guitars, Bass, Synth, Piano, String Arrangements) but also produced the CD as well. His production expertise is clearly obvious on this production. The melodies are well crafted and the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with brilliant messages of comical mystery and drama. All in all the messages offer us a brilliant perspective from an artist that has quite a lot to offer us – regardless of his true motives.
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