The Madison, Wisconsin rock band Gladstone has gone through many changes. And after all the years that the members have known each other, they final decided to get together and form a band. Gladstone is made up of five musicians: Jay Kindschi on vocals and guitars, Dan Kalagian on lead guitar and vocals, Scott Madsen on guitars, keyboards, and vocals, Chris Bengry on bass, and Tom Jacobson on drums. The makeup of the band is similar to VH with two exceptions- this band has five members while VH had four, and Gladstone has a frontman when VH had a lead singer/rhythm guitarist.
The group has been together for only a little, but the time they spent together was enough for the band to write enough music to create a full-length album. The band celebrated the release of that album, “Paper Sky,” at the end of 2008.
When looking at the band’s MySpace account, the description says, “Toad The Wet Sprocket meets John Mayer meets Vertical Horizon”. Listening to the band’s music, the Vertical Horizon influence is very obvious as Gladstone’s style is heavily based upon Vertical Horizon’s sound. However, the Toad The Wet Sprocket and John Mayer influences are not as obvious; that is, until you listen to the entire “Paper Sky” release from the band.
The majority of the Paper Sky release from Gladstone reminds me of a new album from Vertical Horizon: the musicianship of the members, the style in the writing of the tunes, as well as the fact that the lyrics have a Matt Scannell feel to them. And the music created by Gladstone also adds to that reference. And that feel starts right from the beginning of the album.
Paper Sky from Gladstone begins with the track “Bulletproof Umbrella”. With this track, it is as if Gladstone got tired of waiting around for Vertical Horizon to release a new album so they decided to see if they could create the same type of magic themselves. With this track, they have come very close to something that Vertical Horizon would have recorded. The music and the lyrical style as well as content in the lyrics all bring to mind the feel of a VH track.
For the track “Almost Brand New,” Gladstone creates a track that features a rather strong Adult Contemporary feel to the music. For the song about a new addition to the family, there is a slight Vertical Horizon influence to the track, but only slightly. The rest of the musical influences on the song come from Rock and Roll acts from the nineties that were very much a part of the Adult Contemporary music genre.
“Paper Sky” the title track of the album from Gladstone, brings the Vertical Horizon influence back stronger. In this case, however, the track reminds me more of something that would have been written back at the time when Matt Scanell shared the songwriting duties with Keith Kane. “Paper Sky” feels like the music of the track would have come from the era of that band’s album of “Go” but with Keith Kane’s lyrics.
With the track “Fireflies,” the band takes more of an acoustic approach to the music. The song begins with the sound of the acoustic guitar as it sets an easy tone for the track. That acoustic guitar is joined by the piano to help that acoustic approach on the music. The piano is really what sets the song in motion. As you listen to the track, there are a few moments in the song where keyboard player Scott Madsen creates passages that will remind listeners of the playing of Steve Winwood.
The one song on the album that really doesn’t remind me of VH is the song “Imaginary Games”. For this track, the band takes a musical direction which has a style that could remind you of Toad the Wet Sprocket. But that still puts the song in the musical genre of Adult Contemporary.
Back to the band’s description of “Toad the Wet Sprocket meets John Mayer meets Vertical Horizon”. It took me several times of listening to the album before I finally could understand why they list John Mayer in their influences. While the music does not remind me of Mayer all that much, Jay Kindschi’s vocal quality is closer to Mayer than it is to Scannell.
There are two ways of looking at “Paper Sky” from Gladstone: You can either hear a band that has a very commercial sound having released an album that could easily end up receiving a lot of plays on your local Hot A/C radio station. Or you can look at it this way: The band has a sound that is very reminiscent of Vertical Horizon. And since that band has not released a new album since the original version of “GO” in 2003, this is a great way to get your fill of that type of rock music.
If you are someone who liked the sound of Vertical Horizon and have wanted a new release from them, here is the next best thing. While Gladstone is not a Vertical Horizon clone, their sound is close enough to make fans of VH happy.
To find Gladstone and their music, you can go to www.gladstonerocks.com. You can also go to the band’s MySpace account at www.myspace.com/gladstonemusic. You can find the band’s release of “Paper Sky” by going to http://cdbaby.com/cd/gladstonesongs.