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CD REVIEW: Melissa Giges - Far Beyond the Pacific
By Chip Withrow - 07/02/2007 - 02:04 PM EDT

Artist: Melissa Giges
Album: Far Beyond the Pacific
Genre: Pop/Rock
Sounds Like: Pat Benatar, Dusty Springfield, Norah Jones
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Masquerade, So Good, Stand By, Who Will I Be
CD Review: Melissa Giges' Far Beyond the Pacific is such a rich listening experience that I’m a fan even though I am often baffled by the lyrics (more on that later). The music Melissa has written is both unique and hook-filled, and the sound she and guitarist August Eriksmoen have crafted as producers is lush and powerful.

Melissa is a pianist/vocalist who wrote all of these melodically diverse, dramatic songs. The tunes cover a spectrum from torchy jazz to yearning soul to empowered pop/rock, sometimes within a single song. And she sings with big, bold emotion and confidence, which is why it took me a few listens to be puzzled by the lyrics.

Now, most of the songs seem to be about romantic situations. Perhaps Melissa is trying to be enigmatic in her lyric writing. But if that is the case, I would suggest going for all-out weirdness. These words, though, seem to need a more straightforward approach – although some of the images are vivid.

“Find Some Time” begins the disc with a pretty piano riff, then turns into a spunky rock number. “One Day After” reminds me of some of Pat Benatar’s big buildup numbers, moving back and forth between ethereal and pulsing. Melissa moves into a jazzier vein on the sassy “Some Kind of Trouble” (which also rocks pretty hard, too) and the flowing “Surrender.”

I can see where people might be tempted to compare Melissa to Norah Jones, but Melissa has more swagger. “Stand By,” for example, is in-your-face sexy, fueled by Eriksmoen’s effects-laden guitar. And on “Who Will I Be,” Melissa’s singing is both vulnerable and take-me-as-I-am, again buoyed by Eriksmoen’s playing.

“Caught” is a power ballad with from-the-heart vocals, but it’s also the first song on which I noticed the unusual lyrics. Nice imagery, just hard to understand – but maybe that’s what she wants. “Holding On” has an awesome anthemic chorus, and the lyrics seem spiritual – maybe that’s the effect Melissa is looking for?

My favorite at the moment is “Masquerade,” a Dusty Springfield-esque burning soul tune. It’s funky in a walk-a-city-street sort of way, and Melissa provides her own cool backing vocals. “So Good” and “Finally” are other standouts that benefits from extra vocals.

I understand why artists on a budget would put as many songs as possible on an album, but in this case I think 15 is too much. For instance, two nice tracks, the ballad “Carry You” (the direct lyrics are her best) and the Billie Holiday-esque “Miscommunication,” seem like they would be better suited for a disc with stripped-down production. And with just a few more songs, Melissa Giges would have had two albums’ worth of material with a great deal of contemporary appeal.

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