Category: News

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Altered Sweet’

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘ALTERED SWEET – Hooks And Harmony

Altered Sweet album coverI’ve been a Matthew Sweet fan ever since his 1991 breakthrough album GirlfriendI loved that album and played it constantly. Unfortunately, I always wanted Girlfriend 2when it came to Sweet’s subsequent albums. He led the power pop movement of the 1990s, but sometimes his power pop was a little too powerful for me.

That’s why Keith Klingensmith’s Altered Sweet: A Tribute to Matthew Sweet is so refreshing. The artists selected for the tribute to Sweet’s music have stayed true to Sweet’s original vision for his songs, but they’ve toned it down somewhat, making it more accessible.

You wouldn’t know this from the first two songs. Lisa Mychols injects some energy into the mid-tempo song “Looking at the Sun,” and Andy Reed stays true to the guitar-heavy sound of “Where You Get Love.”

simple friend, though, turns the notch down quite a bit with “Sick of Myself,” a sparse arrangement with beautiful harmonies – something that I always thought was missing from most Sweet songs. Stabby Robot’s version of “We’re the Same” turns it back a notch, and the result is a nice pop song without so much power. Coke Rogue turns “Get Older” into a Zombies song, with another good set of harmonies.

Sadly, I’ve been out of touch with some of Sweet’s catalogue, and there were some songs I had never heard. Donny Brown’s “Hide” had me checking out Sweet’s original version, and I must say that I preferred Brown’s version.

Others choose to not “make it their own” (to borrow a line from hundreds of “American Idol” contestants) and stay true to the original. Klingensmith’s “You Don’t Love Me” adds a touch of keyboards to the mix, but for the most part it’s the same beautiful song Sweet did – maybe even a bit sadder. And Michael Carpenter, who had the impossible task of covering Sweet’s best song, “Girlfriend,” adds a touch of rawness but still has the energy and simplicity of the original.

Hearing Altered Sweet made me appreciate Matthew Sweet’s music again. And that’s what tribute albums are supposed to do. Soon I’m going to dust off my old cassettes of Sweet’s releases, but for the time being, I’m happy listening to this compilation.

Buy Altered Sweet at Bandcamp

Three Men and a Tenor

I’m currently in the studio recording the 25th Anniversary album for the wonderful Three Men and a Tenor! I’m also doing some tour dates with them as well in February 2018.

Check out more details at: www.threemenandatenor.com

Back In The Studio with Nick Piunti

I’m currently recording drums, percussion, backing vocals and doing a little production for Nick’s new record, tentatively titled Temporary High.

Keep up on the latest from Nick’s upcoming record here: www.nickpiunti.com

All Music Is Power

AMP (An acronym for ‘All Music is Power’), is a fully interactive musical concert series that reaches kindergarten through post secondary school special education students who are in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Concerts are performed by professional local musicians who provide an opportunity for students to enjoy and gain an understanding of music making and its creation. We believe that music is power and empowering to all people, regardless of ability. Students are not only audience members but are also given the opportunity for a hands-on experience in their own student-centered learning environment.

This interactive opportunity for self expression and learning is research-based practice in action. One of the program’s goal is to provide the students who are in these center-based facilities (i.e. Saginaw ISD/Milett Learning Center) some of the opportunities no longer afforded through their school’s current curriculum.

Our 501(c)3 has grown and we are taking the program (at no cost) to over 12 locations working with special needs children throughout Michigan!

Learn more at: http://allmusicispower.com

Lavel Jackson

Lavel is a solo artist and also a member of the world famous Dramatics. I played on his new record produced by Andy Reed. He’s also a fellow Saginawian!

More from Level: www.laveljackson.com

Donny Brown Nominated for Saginaw All Area Arts Award

For his prominence and leadership in the arts and the arts education, we are honored to announce that Donny Brown has been nominated for a Saginaw All Area Arts Award.  The awards will be held on May 12th where final winners will be announced.

Click here for more information.

Click here for the full list of nominees.

REVIEW – Donny Brown of the Verve Pipe – Hess Street EP (Something Else Reviews)

As founding member and drummer of the Verve Pipe, Donny Brown certainly sports an admirable pedigree. His accomplishments have continued in the form of a solo career, and here on his freshman offering, Hess Street EP, the Michigan musician’s creativity reaches some pretty lofty heights.

Ruled by Donny’s plush and polished vocals that soar, sway and sparkle with color and elegance, the five track disc is further amplified by tight and enterprising rhythms. Stirring choruses and arresting hooks also pierce Donny Brown’s sharply-creased songs. Strains of the Beach Boys, Badfinger and Billy Joel may arise now and again throughout Hess Street EP, but bold blasts of originality never fail to prevail.

Propelled by an innocent bounce and wave after wave of melodious movements, “Lucky Number” gets Hess Street EP off to a perfectly poptastic start, and “The Night I Fell For You” gushes with the kind of emotional power and pristine shine heard on classic ballads. A strummy folk guitar, aided by clawing breaks circles the environment on “The Driving Song,” and the toe-tapping vaudeville shuffle of “Call Me” (complete with the underwater sound of a megaphone) is so authentic that images of dancing flappers, Speakeasies, and bootleg liquor are bound to appear before your eyes.

Taking its title from the name of the street the Verve Pipe’s Donny Brown grew up on, Hess Street EP reins right in as a striking debut recording. Clearly frothing with ideas, Donny wasted little time putting together his next disc, Donny Brown, which has recently been released and is an ideal companion to its predecessor.

Read the full article HERE.

REVIEW – EP Review: Donny Brown – S/T (Power of Pop)

DonnyBrown_PowerOfPopNot a day goes by without me pining for the days of the 90s pop underground movement. It was a retro-delicious time (to steal a phrase from Robyn Hitchcock), where bands developed the influences of the 60s (The Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and The Who) & the 70s (power pop, glam, pop-rock and rock ’n’ roll) into a heady melodic yet erudite melange.

So it was refreshing to come across Donny Brown’s eponymous EP, released in late 2015. Brown is perhaps best known as the drummer for successful alt-rock band Verve Pipe but on this, his 2nd solo effort, he proves that he has the chops (and more) to stand out on his own.

The six tracks here are lovingly crafted – from the memorable tunes to the old school pop-rock instrumentation/arrangements – and Brown casts his net wide to include many diverse inspirations from that special epoch of the 60s/70s.

Opening song “14 Days” is chock full of hooks, though presented in a subtle manner – a rather laid back introduction to the EP. It all kicks off in earnest really with the jaunty folky “Now You Can Break My Heart” with a McCartney-esque chorus as a wondrous topping. “Life Of A Stranger” is a little more sophisticated, a mid tempo number that explores self and identity.

The absolute highlight? The Jeff Lynne-channeling “Just A Friend”, complete with George Harrison styled slide guitar solo – at parts, it recalls that Bryan Adams LP that Lynne produced.

The closing “Reach Out” is a pleasing jazzy song where Brown experiments a little with his vocal range.

Lacking a bit of the ‘power’ end of power pop, but with enough pop savvy to keep the fans of 90s pop underground sufficiently happy, Donny Brown should be lauded for presenting authentic sounding music that remains true to the principles of the best 60s/70s pop-rock.

Read the original review HERE.

REVIEW – Donny Brown of the Verve Pipe – Donny Brown (Something Else Reviews)

Solo outings by members of successful bands rarely meet the expectations of the public. But there are isolated instances where such recordings do not disappoint.

Enter Donny Brown, whose role in the Verve Pipe certainly requires no explanation. In 2014, the gifted Michigan, Lansing based singer, songwriter and mercurial instrumentalist released his first solo effort, Hess Street, an EP that satisfied Verve Pipe fans to the core.

Donny’s follow-up EP, 2015’s Donny Brown, maintains the mood and essence of his debut disc, while still having the smarts to stretch his vision and vocabulary. Shimmering with standard popisms, Donny’s vocals are clear and precise, which are stunningly compatible with his potent melodies and jeweled arrangements.

Robed in ringing guitars and sun-bleached hooks, “Now You Can Break My Heart” flickers with clingy pop gestures each breath and note of the way, flashes of psychedelic foliage emerge on the slinky sitar-studded “14 Days,” and the melancholic Badfinger-styled impressions of “Just A Friend” weave together heart-stopping piano work with bluesy six-string samplings in dazzling harmony.

Every cut on Donny Brown is executed in a sincere and sure-footed manner. Both the sound and production of the record is clean and crisp, lending the songs a glow that lifts the spirits and calls for never-ending listens.

Those enamored of folks like Crowded House, Matthew Sweet and of course the Verve Pipe, are strongly urged to add this great record to their collections. A real triumph from an artist whose intuition and instincts are thoroughly developed, Donny Brown bottles all that is good and noble about genuine pop music.

Read the original article HERE.

REVIEW – Donny Brown “Donny Brown” EP (Power Popaholic)

Last year Donny’s talent floored me on his debut EP Hess Street, as his romantic ballads were great examples of songwriting. On his self-titled follow up, the asian strings of “14 Days” keep the pleasant melody from getting dull and “Now You Can Break My Heart” is another good mid-tempo sing along melody.

Then the standouts “Life of A Stranger” and “Just A Friend” take this EP above and beyond the average. The latter is a brilliant ballad about how a friendly kiss only lit sparks for the receiver and not the giver. Catch the slide guitar break midway through this instant classic. “Losing A Part of Your Soul” is another gem with its catchy chorus. “Reach Out” is a lightweight ending here, but this is still a very highly recommended EP.

Read the original review HERE.