King of Echo Park
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2004, Volume 11, #9
Written by T.J. Simon
Brian Joseph is a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter with a voice reminiscent of Jules Shear, and his latest release King of Echo Park showcases the multi-talented former actor as an adept musician who is comfortable exploring a variety of styles. Adorned with horns and an upright bass, Ways of the Cool, the collectionís strongest track, begins in a jazzy, mid-tempo manner before it slowly mutates into a hook-heavy rocker, and his cracks at the alt-country style pay dividends on a pair of charming cuts (Calís Chevy and No Big Deal), both of which feature a pleasant dobro accompaniment that rolls over his thoughtful lyrics.
Joseph is also a much better guitarist than most on the singer-songwriter circuit, and his songs often are laced with fancy finger-style picking, as heard on Whatís that Sound and Louise. As for his piano compositions, such as Cordelia and Nobody Misses You, they tend to be more simplistic in a Randy Newman kind of way. Joseph is clearly at his best, however, when incorporating elements of jazz into his songs ó as he does on Walk on Alvarado, a delightful love letter to Los Angeles. His ballads, on the other hand, contain gentle, atmospheric, and lullaby-like qualities that occasionally create a relaxing mood ó as on the harmony-rich title track ó but also sometimes invite the listenerís mind to wander ó as on King of Echo Parkís only clunker God Bless the Storm.
Still, Joseph clearly puts a lot of time into his lyrics, which certainly will be appreciated by those who listen to a lot of contemporary folk. The lead-off track God Save the King does a nice job at illustrating the blurred lines between activism, patriotism, and domestic terrorism. He also canít resist a good novelty song. The Road to Endarkenment takes a jab at the meditation and yoga craze as the music fuses impressive fingerpicking with the playfulness of a tuba, and Hallalujah is a humorous gospel number about a robber who finds success by dressing up as a priest. Overall, King of Echo Park is no masterpiece, but itís still an immensely appealing album that fans of singer-songwriter fare will enjoy mightily. Ĺ
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box