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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: A.J. Croce “Just Like Medicine”

Singer-songwriter Adrian James Croce (from here on out to be referred to as A.J. Croce) has spent the last few years picking up where his father had left off. While only a toddler when Jim died, A.J. Croce grew to know his father through the music that Jim left behind. He has even spend time on stage creating concerts of Jim’s music under the concept name of Croce Plays Croce. And that music from A.J’s father plus the music of his father’s contemporaries have helped to shape A.J’s songwriting. Through the last few decades, A.J. Croce has released a total of ten albums of music, some of which contain a few tracks from Jim Croce. The latest album from A.J. Croce is entitled Just Like Medicine.  

The Just Like Medicine album from A.J. Croce begins with one of A.J’s original songs called “Gotta Get Outta My Head”. While Croce has followed in his father’s musical footsteps, he also has gone in his own direction as far as his writing style is concerned. Nowhere is that more apparent than on this first track of the album. The track feels more like a song that Dr. John would have composed. The track’s musical approach combines elements of Rock and Roll with some Funk to create a track with a rather strong groove to it.

For the title track of the release, A.J. Croce creates a track in “Cures Just Like Medicine” that brings to mind a style that seems to have been largely influenced by the like of Harry Connick Jr. “Cures Just Like Medicine” features a Jazzy, Connick-like musical approach. The somewhat raspy voice of A.J. Croce and the musical approach once again brings to mind the sound and feel of Dr. John but with more of a jazzy feel.

Staying in a jazzy state of mind, the next track entitled “Move On” features A.J. Croce continues with the Connick influence but with a stronger stressing of jazz to the music. On this track, what ends up coming across is an “American Songbook” era track that would have come from Rod Stewart. The easy feel to the music and the lyrical delivery that is unmistakably Stewart creates a track that transcends age as the track feels both timeless and retro at the same time.

While the Just Like Medicine album from A.J. Croce features A.J’s songs, the album is not completely about the singer-songwriter. The album features one song co-written by AJ and another musician, and one track that was actually written by Jim Croce himself.  

Just Like Medicine from A.J. Croce features the song “The Heart That Makes Me Whole,” a track that was written with the help of Steve Cropper of Booker T & the MG’s fame. With Cropper playing the guitar on the track, A.J. Croce creates a song with a strong groove that features a little Soul influence in the music. Because of Cropper’s musical background and with the various people he has played with over the years, the track “The Heart That Makes Me Whole” created by Cropper and Croce seems to draw inspiration from the artists of the past, giving the song a strong musical feel that would have felt right at home with the tracks that appeared on the albums produced by The Blues Brothers.

While “The Heart That Makes Me Whole,” is a track co-written by A.J. Croce, one track on Croce’s latest release of Just Like Medicine isn’t his. That track is the song “Name of the Game”. This song was written by Jim Croce but was never released. The reason for that was because Jim passed away before the release it was to be included on could be completed. Right from the beginning few notes of the track, it is absolutely clear that “Name of the Game” is Jim Croce’s song. The main reason why the track sounds like a Jim Croce tune is because of the way A.J. sings the song- he chose to sing the song in Jim’s “voice,” as A.J’s delivery on the track is a very strong impersonation. The guitar-driven track ends up being something that would have been right at home next to a song such as “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”. In fact, the two tracks feel as if they could have been together on the same album.

Just Like Medicine, the latest album from A.J. Croce is brought to a close with the track called “The Roads”. With this track, Croce creates a track that seems to draw inspiration from the likes of singer-songwriter Chris Isaak as the song has a feel with a slight throwback feel to the music, much the same way Isaak’s songs do. “The Roads” is a track with an equal blend of guitar-based and keyboard-based music. The two main instruments both shine on their own and support the other instrument at the same time. This creates a track with a strong Rock and Roll approach. And with that Rock and Roll approach, the track brings the release to a close on a strong musical note.

The music on the latest release from A.J. Croce called Just Like Medicine features the spirit of Croce’s father as well as the many talents of Steve Cropper and the many other talented musicians who help to create an album of music with a straight-out Rock and Roll soul to it. The combination of the original compositions from A.J. Croce and the few tunes he chose to include on his latest album are all rather well-rounded, musically-speaking; especially given the fact that the tracks borrow from several different musical directions at once. While A.J. Croce may not gain the same notoriety that his father had when he was alive, that doesn’t mean that the he is any less talented. And Croce’s latest original album of Just Like Medicine is strong proof of that.

As the release of Just Like Medicine from A.J. Croce came out in 2017, Croce is currently creating new music. He recently released a new single. That new single is entitled “I Got a Name” which, of course, was one of Jim Croce’s more popular recordings when he was alive. As mentioned earlier, A.J. Croce has been touring under the concept of Croce Plays Croce for a while now. And with this tour concept, A.J. plays the music of his father Jim in concert the way Jim would be doing if he was still alive today. And that is exactly what you get with this new recording of “I Got a Name”. The arrangement of the track sounds like a note-for-note recreation of Jim Croce’s single, keeping the feel of the original intact. While not making any new strides in originality, A.J. keeps Jim’s memory fresh in people’s minds with this version of the old tune from his father.   

For a taste of the music from A.J. Croce, check out the album’s “title track” of “Cures Just Like Medicine”:

Also check out A.J. Croce’s latest recording of his father Jim’s song “I Got a Song”: 

To check out the entire Just Like Medicine release from A.J. Croce, click on the album cover below: 

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Justin Roeland “Doomed to Bloom”

Ithica, New York-based singer-songwriter Justin Roeland has been and continues to be a rather busy individual. From the various bands that he is part of such as The Fling as well as the band Greater California and Justin Roeland & Nightswimmers to creating his very own solo music, Roeland is constantly writing and creating music. In fact, Roeland is currently celebrating the release of his newest album of original solo material. The newest solo release from Justin Roeland is entitled Doomed to Bloom.

The new release of Doomed to Bloom from Justin Roeland begins with the track “Desolation”. Much like something that would have come from the Louisville, Kentucky band My Morning Jacket, “Desolation” is a track that features an Indie Rock soul but also contains a strong ambient feel to the music. That feel seems to come from the blending of the instrumentation together in order to create one strong sound that revolves around the electric guitar. There is a definite commercial quality to the music but it still has a slight difference that wouldn’t exactly fit on Top 40 radio.

Justin Roeland’s new album continues with the track “In the New Year”. While the previous song of “Desolation” contains some commercial feel to it, “In the New Year” brings a little more Indie Rock quality with it with a slight Oldies flavor. That Indie Rock feel is courtesy of the track’s stronger ambient presence. Not only does the instrumentation have a slight ambient feel to it, the vocals on the track feel as if they come from the vocal groups who were very popular back in the fifties. With the ambient quality to the music and the Oldies feel in the vocal direction, “In the New Year” ultimately has a relaxed musical approach. 

On the track “Seasons of Love,” Justin Roeland creates a track that is Indie Folk as the track is equal parts Indie Rock and Folk. The light percussion in the background of the track helps to create the foundation to the track and gives the song its rather laidback feel and the rest of the instrumentation gives the song a light approach on the Rock and Roll side of things. The track continues at a slow pace with a rather easy feel to the music for the length of the track but the inclusion of the electric guitar nearly halfway in helps add a nice amount of energy to the track.

It is on the track “Underworld” that Justin Roeland creates one of the most commercial tracks on the Doomed to Bloom release. The track has perhaps the strongest Rock and Roll approaches of any track on the release. A strong electric guitar and a strong bassline are two reasons why this track is so strong. While the track still contains a slight ambient quality to it, it’s the Indie Rock influences that come through on this track. The one thing that comes through with this track is that the song seems to suggest a slight Chris Isaak influence as the track has a similar quality to it that Isaak’s “Wicked Game” has…with a slightly more lively feel to the music. “Underworld” is easily one of the strongest moments on the Doomed to Bloom release from Justin Roeland, even if the lyrics about Roeland reacting to his world being ripped out from under might come across as rather dark.

It is on the album’s “title track” of “Dream House” that once again finds Justin Roeland creating a track with a laidback approach to the music. The lyrical content of the track brings back some of the dark quality that was found on the previous song of “Underworld”. With this track, sings of how the house they currently occupy is fine for their current needs, although they are “doomed to bloom,” most likely meaning that they are sure to outgrow the house they are in. Like most of the tracks that are found on the Doomed to Bloom album, the “title track” of “Dream House” comes with a relatively laidback feel.   

Justin Roeland brings his newest solo release to a close with the track “Wide Awake”. As the rest of the album comes with a laidback approach to the music, so it is with the final track of the album. The mainly instrumental track (with the exception of some vocalizing from Roeland) features the sound of several guitars creating a sound that sounds like an instrumental track that may have been created by Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers as there is some Island influence to the music of the track. The easy feel to the music (like with much of this release) brings the album to a close on a gentle note.

Doomed to Bloom from Justin Roeland is a good solo release from a musician that keeps himself busy with the various projects that he juggles. And although the album stays rather mellow throughout the ten tracks that make up the release, those ten tracks have such a similar musical approach that the album feels very solid despite that mellowness. But it is the solidified feel of the album that allows for the listener to simply put the album on and let the music play out. The album almost begs you to put headphones on and just let the music take you away.

 

For the last several months, Justin Roeland has been releasing videos to go along with tracks from the Doomed to Bloom album. Click on the link to check out the video to the “title track” of the Doomed to Bloom album entitled “Dream House“.  

Click on the album cover below to check out the Doomed to Bloom album and the rest of Justin Roeland’s music on his spotify profile:

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Features

NXNE Roundup: Damn you, parties, it’s all a blur now!

Another year, another NXNE and yet again, I was a victim to NXNE's most awesome parking lot and rooftop parties. What can I say, free booze, food and live music are the perfect tonic for good times with friends.

I kicked off my NXNE with probably one of my most favourite parties to date. Hosted by Exclaim!, Jagermeister and Sailor Jerry in a random parking lot at the corner of Spadina and College, the combination of Canada's music authority and everyone's favourite drinks was the perfect slur maker.