Much has been written about Rick Barry, mostly by local journalists and not always in the most challenging of ways. Many have given him the pass, gushing over his acoustic accomplishments while excusing the band stuff as “experimental.” Whatever the case might be I know that this CD is important to him in a literal sink-or-swim scenario, as he is an artist that needs to go—somewhere.
The new CD, titled This Antediluvian World, which in itself is a bevy of imagery, is under the guidance of Gordon Brown (Mr. Reality), Ron Haney (The Churchills) and Bart Schoudel (The Churchills). Barry has a winner on his hands with this classy disc and he also seems to have finally found his band niche.
I say finally because every project he’s been in up till now has been missing certain elements. Whether it’s been a band member’s weakness or Rick’s inability to accept that frontman status, something’s been a bit off, as if he’s been ashamed of accepting the role. But survival means knowing when to surrender the one trick pony to someone else’s vision. Barry has the riveting soul of a songwriter, and with the addition of real production and the current musicians, he seems to be stepping into his bandleader role with enthusiasm.
The producers figured out that if you couldn’t change the man you change the presentation. Like a trainer searching for the racehorse stride, his producers have coaxed Barry into his own smooth gait. And that’s what this album demonstrates. Melding the best of Rick’s point of view with smart arrangements from the producers that put him into a different category as a performer.
The show at the Saint immediately calmed my “Can they do this record live?” fears, as it was all pretty much note for note, shaking the sensibilities of the decadent Saint critics next to me saying, “Wow, I cant believe it! This sounds exactly like the record.” He’s been putting his nose to the grindstone, concentrating and getting the practice time in which is key.
The opening track, “Introduction,” sets the mood as it slowly rolls into “Richard Please,” a desolate and dusty tear-jerker bound in country twang with Rick’s plaintive melodic style, backed by the lush swells of Schoudel and the far away bends of Haney, kicked back in the mix but urgent in their gritty feel. Echoes of Pete Yorn, Mathew Sweet and Coldplay whisper quietly here.
“Atlantis” creeps up on the listener, Bowie bleak and deep, pulling out Rick’s gift of oral and visual devastation, the viewpoint of surviving the outcome of lessons learned too late by mankind’s best. Great big church bell synths and glistening tremolo guitars grind the bridge into your soul, clearing the way for Schoudel’s organ-based salvation as Barry’s battling conscience mixes the solace of the Garden Of Eden with bitter regrets and the reality of things far too late to fix. Penny Lane horns and the dusky vocals of Eryn Shewell wash this into the disintegrating end.
“On Our Way Home” leaves the listener on the steps of Rick Barry’s creative mind. Opening the door, you watch his acoustic strum wind up the half-time shuffle, setting up Haneys dark riff, ushering in a brilliant chorus built around the picturesque vocal assist of Allie Moss who sweetens the bridges with her intense and ethereal presence, which to me is the bonafide hook alongside Barry’s signature knowing and weary with style. Moss’ vocal syncs eerily as the band shuffles along on its “ground control” hook, Haneys truck stop slide pulls neatly alongside Schoudels sci-fi strings in the background. The drumming of Tom Cottone quietly fuels the rocket sled here.
“All Of Your Mistakes Have Names” is growing on me. Big highlights include the amazing trumpet salvos of Antonio Gambrell and the vocal assist of Val Emmich, bringing back golden ‘70s memories of Chicago and The 5th Dimension. The back-beat vamp flips and bounces throughout. A colorful and infectious pop ditty, you’re reminded of its darkened undertone with lines like, “You had a funeral for your friend Mikey and the very next night, you had a party to celebrate his life. You got drunk out of your skull and high on PCP, the same chemical he was embalmed with, you reeked of irony.”
“A Thousand Words” crawls out of the undercurrents of Springsteen’s “Valentines Day” off Tunnel Of Love vibe. I was instantly drawn to the plaintive and melancholy feel of the song, dark and reminiscent of a gilded past, well-meaning ambitions and the pointless silence of the obvious future.
This Antediluvian World is the winner that finally shows Rick comfortable in his own skin, ignoring the naysayers on his way to the “World Beyond.” For more info please go to myspace/rickbarryband.