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CD REVIEW: Marshmallow Overcoat - On Safari
By Cyrus Rhodes - 03/29/2011 - 11:57 PM EDT

Artist: Band: Marshmallow Overcoat
Album: On Safari
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: R&B
Sounds Like: Train, The Beetles, CCR, The Monkeys
Technical Grade: 6/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 6/10
Commercial Value: 6/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Life is Complicated, How to Let Go, She’s a Winner
Weakness: Engineering (Recording, Mixing, Mastering), Marketability, Dated Sound
CD Review:

Pennsylvania’s own Marshmallow Overcoat releases their debut CD “On Safari”: in 2010. Band members include:  Tyler Calkins: Lead Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Harmonica, Dave Verbocy: Lead Vocals, Bass, Acoustic and 12-String Guitar, Anthony 'Cav' Cavallaro: Drums, Percussion.

The CD kicks gets off the ground nicely with “Over Me” a smooth flowing intro piece that serves up slamming blues rock groove against walking bass lines, effective harmonies & soulful melody from Calkins & company. Track 2 “Faces On The Floor” keeps thing moving in the right direction with heartfelt vocal delivery from Calkins with steady flowing acoustic guitar rhythm, & hooky chorus making for an impressive acoustic ballad. Track 3 “Nothing’s Ever Been the Same” is another impressive groove that dishes out heartfelt rhythm, impressive drum fills & thought provoking lyrical content. The musicianship of everyone involved is above the bar. I would classify this music as classic R&B, Americana, with brief touches of psychedelic Rock of the late 60’d & early 70’s. Music is reminiscent of classic CCR, The Beetles, The Monkeys, with brief splashes of The Black Crows, The Rembrandts, & even modern Train. Along the way you will notice lush instrumentation with things like impressive solo guitar, well placed harmonica, Piano & Hammond Organ chops, percussion & lush harmonies layered everywhere. Now turning our attention over to singer Calkins - as for his vocal abilities well – he’s spot on! His voice goes down smooth & fills the space peacefully & unobtrusively with a timber that is simply infectious. I might add he takes some impressive vocal risks indicating to me a confident vocal ability. All songs are extremely well crafted & consistent across the board. This CD from Marshmallow Overcoat delivers 12 solid tracks all providing musical enjoyment filled with strong musical variety & diversity. The music of MO has everything you would expect from a world class musical production. From hooky “Girl with the Red Hair”& “She’s a Winner” to heartfelt “Goin to Williamsport” to passionate “Life is Complicated” & “How to Let Go” to melodic “Around Here” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “Live On” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.  

The biggest problem with the CD is not the band, not the music, not even the performances - it’s the engineering aspect of it The mix seems to be somewhat erratic, amateurish, & a bit all over the place. From drums & tom tom’s that sound awkward, to cheesy -extreme right & left pans, awkward instrument & vocal levels – this CD has all the trademarks of a "basement" mix job. It takes skill and engineering savvy to mix a musical production to industry standards these days. . It’s also never a good idea to have someone close to the production mix it.  The impact this will have on its overall sound cannot be overstated. I might add the year is 2011 so the bar is set really high for independent artists like MO. Given the talent factor of this band & the scope of the songs, amazing melodies & compositions - it’s a bit unfortunate. 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 by a separate & experienced professional – especially the mix. It’s safe to say if the any stage of the production process is not done properly, the whole production can be for not I even detected slight timing issues on Track 7. MO’s overall sound is a bit dated. This is not normally a problem but given the clear as mud production quality it counts against them rather than work in their favor. I fully realize this is a subjective art form but many of the above issues affect the CD’s overall marketability.

From start to finish On Safari by Marshmallow Overcoat is an impressive collection of music from these lads. The songwriting – world class, all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair, & signature groove. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalog. The writing & playing abilities of this 3 piece & is rock solid. The melodies & harmonies are well crafted, & the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with good old fashioned no holds barred R&B Rock swagger. Get a piece of it while you can!

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