Friday, September 6, 2013
Album Review: Jeffery Straker - Vagabond
Jeffery Straker's Vagabond is the Canadian singer/songwriter/pianist's fourth album. His music has been compared to notable artists such as Elton John, Billy Joel and Rufus Wainwright, but as flattering as those comparisons may be, they aren't accurate, they are simply trying to pigeonhole Jeffrey in with other artists that write songs and play piano.
If you could compare Jeffrey with any artist on the scene today, it would have to be Mika, a very much toned down Mika, but Mika nonetheless.
The album opens with "Birch Bark Canoe." This song is a beautiful slow number that introduces the listener to his vocal range. His piano playing is flawless and it is the other reason why people will find themselves attracted to his music. The main reason being his songwriting.
"Rosetta Stone" has a dreamy orchestration. The arrangement is sophisticated but folksy at the same time, elegant, yet comfortable.
There's a air of melancholy to "Burn The Boats." The solitary drum beat adds a darkness to this song, along with Jeffrey's haunting vocal.
"Botanic Gardens" is a swirling, elegant example of songwriting. This is the song that likely drew the comparisons to Elton John. It share's Elton's 70s pop brilliance, with a touch of The Beatles' "Penny Lane." The song is dramatic and it compels you to listen as well as sing along.
Jeffery's best songs are the ones with a heavy pop element and "Sans Souci" is one of those songs. Its upbeat and catchy and very 70s. It is pure fun. This is the kind of song you play at full blast, so that the neighbors beg you to turn it down, even though you won't.
"Raven" slips back into serious mood. Like Poe's "Raven" the song is more dark and mysterious sounding.
Staying with the slow theme is "Cathode Rays." The title is so intriguing that you might find yourself googling the title just to find out that cathode rays are streams of electrons observed in a vacuum tube. This is one of the few songs (not by They Might Be Giants) that will give you a bit of a science lesson, if you feel curious. If you aren't the curious sort, you just have a soothing melody with a vocal that will lull you into a sense of relaxation.
Another quirky song title is "Myopia" and the song is just as quirky. This is the most fun track on the album. After all, how many songs have myopia in the title and as part of the chorus? Pop fans, will fall hard for "Myopia."
The album closes with the forty second "Foolish." It is described as a twitter love lament and perhaps 40 seconds is the equivalent of 140 characters or less.
Jeffery Straker may be a well known name in Canada, but his talent should carry him across the borders. Vagabond is an album that will appeal to all ages. Though it is full of more sophisticate numbers, Jeffrey's voice and songwriting talent will draw listeners in.
It is a shame the majority of the songs on Vagabond have a serious sound, when Jeffery does the more playful pop tunes so well. There is always the next album though, but until then Vagabond is a wonderful addition to anyone's listening library.
Rating 4 (out of 5) stars