by Geoff Penn
Having first taken a peek at Jerry Axson’s website (see the above link) I can
say I was totally overwhelmed by the layout and complexity of the
equipment. In fact it is a preverbal ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of studio equipment and
instrumentation. You have to admire anyone who puts their heart, soul and
finance into managing and producing such an enterprise. Jerry has involved himself with a whole host of different music projects both for himself and the community resulting in a fair sized back catalogue of past music ventures. So, it is only fair to sit up and take some notice because these kind of guys are the unspoken heroes of the music industry devoting their time and innovativeness in providing a music service for others besides, that is, recording his own music for the enjoyment of others.
Anyway, under review here is Jerry’s latest album entitled ‘Pale Blue Dot’ which comprises six self-penned tunes that are explicitly keyboard orientated tracks overlaid with an interesting assortment of well-crafted guitar contributions and other layered sound enhancements. Certainly, a common thread to the music is a combination of deeply resonant interlocking rhythmic guitar and bass guitar patterns that act as a foundation and which drive the music forward with much energy and purpose. A fair amount of keyboard variety is injected into the scores including a fair amount of experimentation with the different instrumental keyboard selectors. For example track 2, a kind of take off of ‘Queen’s - Another One Bites the Dust’ is saturated in fun and frolic taking off in all kinds of interesting angles with amusing lyrics.
There are heaps of things to admire and enjoy with respect to the self-assurance of the arrangements. The intricate construction, of each individual track must of absorbed an exceptional amount of time and with it oodles of his patience as he single-handedly assembled the various guitar parts and other loops including sound effect layers. This together with the continued development of the various scores and the incorporation of additional ideas as the numerous tunes in the process of development progressed.
I would hazard a guess that Jerry’s obvious passion for studio technology and keyboard enterprise have actually overtaken a previous leaning towards the electric guitar. I must say that I much preferred the more open cleaner sounding guitar elements of the music (track 5 and 6) rather than the more intense sometimes compressed sound of the multi keyboard chord sequences. One area of the musical output where further progress could be made is the resultant and overall effect projected by, what sounds like, a drum machine that comes over as being somewhat labored and very mechanical.
Certainly, Jerry’s vocals are pleasurable, although he doesn’t quite come over as a natural singer, but he does very well. Some kind of accompaniment would strengthen this element of the vocal output. From the promo notes, I understand that ‘Jerry’ shares his music live and I guess he sells his CDs online and at gigs which is great and I hope it goes some way of contributing to his costs.
Summary: An enjoyable set of songs from an enthusiastic multi-instrumental tunesmith.
Artwork: Simple but nicely designed.
Jerry Axson might be one of Columbia’s best keep secrets with the
release of his 17th, you heard me correctly seventeenth, studio album
release that came out in October. The album is called A Room for
name is spot on. Jerry is known for his heartfelt close-to-home lyrics but usually in a very tightly made package. This time around he decides to explore many different emotions as well as a couple of different influences of musical styles. In turn this is where the title of the album comes from – there is a song in here for every emotion and almost every stylistic choice one may want to listen to.
“Theresa” starts us out with an addicting soft guitar riff that just sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s followed by “How Do I Look” which is an inspirational upbeat song, which as Jerry himself has said “was written for my wife and simply put it’s an acknowledgement of both deep love and deep respect.” The love truly flows with every word spoken. “Sitting on Red (Waiting for Green)” is a story of childhood love that spans a lifetime; the object here was to wrap string arrangements around a simple acoustic progression and have the two elements support and complement each other.
“When Boogie Danced” is the perfect interlude for this CD. It falls right in the middle of the seven tracks and adds a bit of humor and good ole country back beat to break the serious mood.
“The Battle of Secessionville” is my favorite out of this album. The musicality is rich and well orchestrated. Acoustic guitar makes up the foreground but it is supported by a string ensemble through which gives this piece a rich depth of sound that isn’t found elsewhere on the album and makes this a very unique track. As I listened there was a very specific story that was being told about the Civil War and I wanted to know why. I had to do some research but on Jerry’s website he had this to say about the lyrics: “I happened to stumble across the story of these two brothers who fought against each other during the Civil War on opposite sides. Their story and legacy are built upon saved letters between the two during wartime and as I read their letters the verses wrote themselves to me, the chorus is my summation of their plight.”
“Zachary Cotton Cooper” is a classic rock song, plain and simple. Not to say it isn’t a good song- it is very much a wonderful track but it does come to you as a surprise when there are so many different stylistic layers to this album already. Bringing it back to Jerry’s roots is a delightful touch. “Celina, She Smiled” is the final track on the album and it has a hauntingly beautiful sound to it. If I can give it a name it is a rock ballad within a soft country backdrop. It’s filled with emotion and really wraps up the musical experience nicely. If you ask Jerry Axson, he is very proud of his use “Doodle Bugs” in the song so be sure to listen for that gem.
I usually try to say if you like to listen to this kind of band you should listen to Jerry Axson but I have to say in my opinion he has one of the most refreshing and unique sounds I have heard in a while. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like if you check out this CD along with his immense discography you are certain to find something of your liking.
by Sean Knight
Columbia’s Jerry Axson takes the listener on a moody, nostalgic ride
on his 5-song EP “Destroying All Monsters”. Singer-songwriter Axson
slings guitar in a power pop style that recalls elements of ultra-poppy
‘80s new wave like seminal Atlanta band the Producers, but there are
traces of Paisley Underground, jangle pop and ‘90s alt rock thrown in for good measure. It’s a sound that is solidly familiar but his firm grip on song-writing keeps everything sounding new.
Most of the songs here deal with relationships and there are really downbeat moments; the introspective and heavy lyrics counterbalance the sometimes airy and lightly flowing pop style. My favorite line is in “Ada Lovelace”: how many times have you heard “Your comprehension of math/ Penetrates my soul”? Axson is a very capable guitarist and his playing is tight with a shimmer of old-school ‘80s guitar effects that add to the atmosphere. Vocally, I find him very reminiscent of Matthew Sweet, and fans of Sweet would probably find something to latch onto here, as Jerry trucks in some of that same alternative power pop. There are solos galore here, mostly short and sweet. The riff at the beginning of “Tampa Bay Blues (Mako Shark)” is straight-up .38 Special and the rest of the song veers towards that style of blues-based riffing.
For the most part, this short set of tunes will remind you of ‘80s radio, and that’s not a bad thing. I liked the juxtaposition of some of the near-depressing lyrical imagery with the more up-beat music; it keeps the musical setting slightly unfamiliar and interesting. If you are looking for something old made new again, look no further.