If you follow this blog, last time we promoted Sam Llanas’ 4AM with a press release and some bio info. This time, we take on the album itself. Now the “concept”, if you will, of this album is the adventures that take place after hours. Llanas claims to have written many of the tunes late at night. I identify with that as I do my best work at night (post 11pm). So I went out on a limb this time and gave it an initial listen after 1am. I’m too old to make it to 4am without chemical stimulants, and I knock off the caffeine at 5pm.
Much less anything stronger.
But I felt it best to get the full effect of this disc’s concept, if it was listened to at the same time it was composed, performed, etc. I was right. This is late night listening at its best!
The disc opens with a surprisingly loud cry of “Oh Ceilia”. It actually takes you by surprise. The mastering on this is out of this world. You get your money’s worth sonically. The vocal doubles on the second verse, and it is after this point that the band joins in. The percussion waits it out until the third verse, but the sharp hand percussion makes it worth the wait.
There is nothing sinful in this story, as might be eluded to in the vocal. Simply beautiful.
The bass harmonics steal the show before jingle rings highlight the plaintiff pleas for Celia to come out. After such a lovely song, I’d like to see Celia too! This is a very pretty number, suitable for a lover’s passionate dance. May I dip you?
“Shyne” kicks up to a mid tempo, an almost salsa feel. It starts off with the full band, so the dynamics are going to be tough to build on. The line about tempting the devil’s daughter has me hooked even before the melodic repetition of the word “shine”. He does repetition better than most of today’s artists. I am not going to bother with another anti-GagaPerryMinajKesha tirade, we all know they are, as the late Whitney Houston might have said, “whack”.
It’s not too soon.
Llanas’ voice is right in your face, where a balladeer of this magnitude should be. I am picturing Tribecca for some reason. While I am not a big accordion fan, it and the guitar are tastefully placed before a solo vocal break.
Llanas’ voice is, as always, engaging. Even by itself.
Once again the bass steals the show back before the build to the chorus. A slide/steel guitar takes us to the lyrical lights of the city.
“4.A.M.” starts similar to “Oh Celia” yet sounds nothing like it. That is what a true, consummate artist can do with chords, melody, key, instrumentation, etc. The bass comes in over the second verse, which is confessing a friendship with that hour of the night. Percussion and accordion fill in before the slide solo. I picked the right time of day to revue/listen to this. Do I know where he’s coming from.. This song is way too short no matter how long the accordion holds that last chord at the end.
“All Through The Night” is the Cyndi Lauper cover. Llanas’ might have a special connection with this song, or it might fit well into the album’s concept. I’m just glad this isn’t co-written by that weasel from the Hooters, Rob Hyman.
He and Eric Bazilian can go stuff it! They know why.
Llanas’ version starts with a harmonic ‘tick-tock’ effect. But this version starts more staccato than Lauper’s and is more stripped-down than the 80’s original. But with Llanas’ thick, raspy voice, it does carry the concept better. The sparse arrangement with strings combined with Llanas’ voice makes this version more palatable to my oddball taste, anyway.
Next up is “Nobody Luvs Me” which starts with a shaker and strings. But the title is misleading in that he is regaling in his love rather than a lack thereof.
Fooled me. But I’m a pessimist…
Again, with the same instrumentation, this song sounds different then everything before it. Llanas’ voice permeates the speakers on the word “baby” and the vocal ad-lib solo, you want to dance with your ba-a-by. I kept catching my foot tap to the beat.
You can’t help it.
Another in-your-face-vocal-at-first song is “Fare Thee Well” which., when the verse starts, Llanas sounds a bit tipsy! But it fits!! Accordion fills the second verse with layered vocals into the chorus.
Llanas knows how to paint a picture in song.
When they break into the namesake chorus, the gets almost nautical. Perhaps bidding adieu to ocean going voyagers as they are casting off. But the verses denote a relationship devoid of feeling. Especially in the breakdown verse “You really didn’t say that much, it was all in the eyes, you flashed that wicked grin of yours one last time”.
That says it all, game over!
Another song that just gets cranking and it’s over too soon.
“Janey” starts with a slapped acoustic guitar and the falsetto rasp I have grown to love. The only dynamic enhancement in the second verse is light guitar harmonics. The lyrical content reminds me of my own marriage and it’s rocky start. But at 2:20, I have little time for reflection but enough time to feel the sadness of this song.
This guy really takes you there!
A cheery accordion accompanies a “doo-doo” vocal ad-lib intro, brings us to the lyric that reminds us it’s 4.A.M. during “The Only One”. Llanas’ describes 4.A.M. being the hour of truth and a guitar being his only friend. I feel like I am listening to another me!
No, Sam, people don’t listen.
Maybe it is the loner in me, the late night musician in me, the romantic in me, but as the album plays on, I identify more and more with the lyrics. Usually, I go one about the music.
What about the music on “The Only One”? It is consistent with the rest of the disc, tight percussion, inventive bass, tasteful accordion, artful strings, and a knowing, soulful voice telling stories.
Listen to the stories!!!
If you’ve ever been alone, this is YOUR song,
The lone-star slide doesn’t hurt the mood. We end as we began, sort of, with the “doo-doo” vocal ad-lib and more lone-star slide.
Lots of upbeat percussion make “Cherry-O” promising. When Llanas’ vocal comes in, it delivers. But despite the happy title, this is a nasty break up song, nasty enough to make Adele cringe. Wanting to hurt someone more than they hurt him, but only a little more. Kissing and dating to evoke revenge. Yow! After these verses, I can’t see how the protagonist has the cajones to even try to reconcile.
But don’t you know, as soon as I say the instrumentation is pat, they whip out a harmonica to throw me a curve. Keep me on my toes. Love it!
Full out, all instrumentation starts with the title line to “Oh How I Loved You”. Apparently, our night out started at 2.P.M. when Llanas learned his love wasn’t true. This song throws in the triangle, a ringing bell to wake up the deluded lover. Along with the triangle, there is a delayed guitar with tremolo. They know how to evolve sound with the story.
More slap acoustic and a grittier vocal starts “The Way Home”. After the verse, call back vocals answer the title line. It sounds like Llanas is trying to be Bob Dylan, only better! Llanas can actually sing. This song is more about the memories affiliated with going home with family than going home drunk.
The saddest part is the disc is also over too soon. This was a very enjoyable night out Sam Llanas. A little bittersweet, but the night makes everything exaggerated.
One interesting note, within the usual credits, Llanas takes credit for direction. I find that intriguing. Another interesting factoid, there is no discernable drum beat. Every percussion track is hand drum, shaker, etc. Overall, this is a very introspective disc. What was described as roots, comes across slightly Hispanic, slightly roots, slightly southern, a dish with many flavors. But one thing I don’t always do is recommend a disc for purchase. In these days of free downloading, and tough economic times, no one has disposable income to buy discs anymore. But I do recommend spending the cash for this. But don’t listen to it right away.
Wait until the wee hours of the morning, it’s better that way!