Levin, Tony - Resonator

Year of Release: 2006
Label: Narada
Catalog Number: 72438-60554-2-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:18:00

I honestly didn't know that Tony Levin had a new album out until I chanced to find it while out on a CD buying trip - looking actually for Hatfield and the North, as it happens. There in the racks I noticed Resonator. If you are expecting something akin to his Waters Of Eden, you will be surprised to find instead a collection of mostly rock pieces (though give all his connections, this isn't really surprising). There's variety here, from classic rock to funky to something that might be termed Crimson-esque. The heaviest piece is their take on Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance," giving it a rumbling, metal, fusiony feel. It's a piece they had great fun with live at the Progressive Legends Showcase II (NEARfest pre-show, where they played with Hatfield and the North), and that kind of fun comes through on this studio version. This is one my favorites pieces on the album.

On vocals - as well as the expected bass, cello, etc. - is Levin himself. Tony isn't a great vocalist, but with his light, mellow, classic rock tone, falls into the good category. You won't not like this because of his vocals. And yet, there's something quite soothing about his tone (especially on "Beyond My Reach"). In fact, you won't not like this at all. It is, by and large, a nifty album. It's not perfect, but there's enough here musically to be entertaining and prompt repeated plays. And lyrically, even when given a humourous slant, are meaningful and have a serious subtext. Even "What Would Jimi Do?" which is more than just an homage to the guitar legend, though listening to Jesse Gress' guitar stylings on this piece, it certainly includes homage. The song posits this question in the context of his time and today in the socio-political arena?

Joining Levin and Gress are Jerry Marotta on drums, percussion, and backing vocals; Larry Fast on synths; Pete Levin (Tony's bro) on keyboards and piano, and various guests including fellow King Crimsonite Adrian Belew on guitar, Steve Lukather on guitar, and Andi Turco-Levin, Maggie Levin, Robbie Dupree, and Lilly the dog (you'll see where on that one in a sec) on backing vocals.

Another of my favorites is the sparse, funky "Places To Go." Though guitar, bass and percussion are present, they are wide open and airy, serving as accents to the vocals. Interestingly, only Tony and Jerry are credited on the piece, but I sure hear hints of guitar... Anyway, I like the humorous serious lyrics; the funky, throbbing beat; and the generally upbeat feel of the piece. The first time I heard it, I smiled.

One that will also make you smile is "Throw The God A Bone" - scan the lyrics and you might think it's just silly nonsense, Levin singing about his dog Lilly. But like "Places To Go," there's something more to it than that. As with other pieces, Levin concerns himself with man's place in things, how relate to each other, ourselves, etc. Since there are blurbs in the booklet that comment on each song, you can get insight into what Levin was thinking. "Throw?" is a fiery rocker in the 60s mold; a bit like the Kinks in a way. A foot-tapping, boogieing piece (listen for the Bob Dylan near-quote).

"Break It Down," which opens the album, is a dark toned piece with Levin's percussive bass taking the lead - for sure the funk fingers are being used here - in slinky, warm and mid-tempo, yet funky piece. The pulse is palpable, like being inside a heartbeat, but there is also something ? spacey about it. There's a middle section, with a distinctive Levin bass tone (the one that always makes me think of "Rhapsody In Blue") accompanies Levin's Barry Manilow-like vocals.

There are three pieces that could be termed ballads. The first is "Utopia" a slow burning, building piece, that begins as a vocal and piano piece (and again Manilow comes to mind), but this blossoms out to include drums and percussion and the fuzziest toned bass that I've heard. The searing guitar leads here are Lukather. The second, "Beyond My Reach," a jazzy piece that has Levin crooning over tinkling piano, taut but easy percussion, and beds of keyboards. It's another one that features just Marotta and Levin. The third is "Fragile As A Song," a gentle piano, bass and vocal ode that Levin wrote, reflecting on his experiences when he joined Peter Gabriel in Atlanta when Gabriel was playing with Bonobo apes. And by playing, I mean musically, where the apes were playing the keyboards. It's actually a piece that wouldn't, stylistically, have seemed out of place on Waters Of Eden; it doesn't seem out of place here either.

Two pieces fall into, well, not into neither category, but are different again from everything else. "Shadowland" is a dark and mysterious and angular instrumental. Drums drive this piece, big, metallic sounding drums, while guitar seethes, seers, and cries, synths blurt and bleet across, bass throbs and stomps, the whole piece like some odd creature making it's way across an alien landscape. It's cinematic, rich and very dynamic? it's epic. Of my favorite pieces, it's my favorite.

The only piece that doesn't work for me is "Crisis Of Faith." Aside from the searing guitar phrases, this brief piece (2:10) will wear out it's welcome after a while. It reminds me of a section of Kevin Gilbert's "Shadow Self" where words run together and create a rhythm of their own. As a section of song, it works, as the core of the song? well? not so much.

All in all, Resonator is really good release; it's likeable, accessible, and musically can be a lot of fun - well, those pieces that are meant to be fun. The somber pieces aren't downers, mind, just that they are more subdued. Performance-wise, it sparkles.

Break It Down (7:02) / Places To Go (5:46) / Throw The God A Bone (5:23) / Utopia (6:20) / Beyond My Reach (5:16) / Shadowland (4:57) / Crisis Of Faith (2:10) / What Would Jimi Do? (4:32) / Sabre Dance (5:05) / Fragile As A Song (4:31)

Tony Levin - bass, vocals, Chapman Stick, keyboards, cello, piano
Jerry Marotta - drums, percussion, background vocals
Jesse Gress - guitar, background vocals
Larry Fast - synths
Pete Levin - piano, organ

Adrian Belew - guitar (3)
Steve Lukather - guitar (4)
Andi Turco-Levin - background vocals (3)
Maggie Levin - background vocals (3)
Robbie Dupree - background vocals (3)
Lilly the dog - background vocals (3)

World Diary
From The Caves Of The Iron Mountain
Bruford Levin Upper Extremities - Bruford Levin Upper Extremities (1998)
Liquid Tension Experiment - Liquid Tension Experiment (1998)
Bozzio Levin Stevens - Black Light Syndrome (1998)
Liquid Tension Experiment - Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (1999)
Bruford Levin Upper Extremities - B.L.U.E Nights (2000)
Waters Of Eden (2000)
Pieces Of The Sun (2002)
Double Espresso (2002)
Resonator (2006)

Complete discography at www.tonylevin.com

Genre: Rock

Origin US

Added: July 30th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.tonylevin.com
Hits: 1031
Language: english


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