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String Cheese Incident: One Step Closer

The stretched long-form jam sessions are gone. No more 20-minute freeform jam tracks recorded with immense spontaneity and immediacy. Enter new producer Malcolm Burn who has some Bob Dylan discs under his belt. His influence on String Cheese Incident is indisputable. Not only did he produce the album, but he also arranged, wrote and even performed on it. The result is a very stripped down piece of work, aiming to gear towards a mainstream audience. But, will they succeed in it? I somehow doubt it.

The liner notes in the CD explain that the band has utilised a democratic structure to their music, allowing each member to equally contribute to the final product. All members provide vocals, write lyrics and throw in their own melodies. Some of the lyrics have been written with outside talents including the amazing Robert Hunter from The Grateful Dead camp and Jim Lauderdale from Nashville. "Big Compromise", as the title itself shows, is one of these songs - a very vocal-driven country piece with no room for any instrumental input. "Until the Music's Over" and "Silence in Your Head" also follow the same songwriting formula, the former being the necessary country ballad, whilst the latter one is the band's more atmospheric side. "Father" has an awful chorus that is so unlike what this band has done before and the lyrics are pedestrian at best. Sure, the band has every right to evolve, but was this the only option they had? "Drive" is classic rock with a huge groove and blues piano, and the short "Betray the Dark" has its moment of interesting percussion work. "45th of November" is one of the better tunes, though it will still fail to impact the long-time Cheese fan. The dancing jazz motifs on "Rainbow Serpent", on the other hand, seem like one of those cut-out sections from their earlier albums, but at least, it stays true to what they're known for. The guitar and synth combination is powerful and the lyrics have more substance.

Bottom line is I'm sure there are people out there who may enjoy this release, but it just doesn't do it for me, especially when I know their full potential. On second thought, these cuts may be a better choise for a live performance, where you can enjoy the moment together with the band. Recorded on tape, however, they are far from interesting and even a bit dull.

Track Listing

  1. Give Me The Love (3:33)
  2. Sometimes A River (5:20)
  3. Big Compromise (4:26)
  4. Until the Music's Over (4:47)
  5. Silence in Your Head (3:40)
  6. Farther (4:00)
  7. Drive (3:53)
  8. Betray the Dark (2:28)
  9. 45th of November (4:26)
  10. One Step Closer (3:30)
  11. Rainbow Serpent (3:57)
  12. Swampy Waters (4:58)
  13. Brand New Start (4:12)

Added: September 28th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: String Cheese Incident website
Hits: 2167
Language: english

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