Waking In The Blue - Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Rocking Horse Audio (Griffin Music (dist.))
Catalog Number: GCD-3101-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 39:11:00

Waking In The Blue is the latest project from ex-Tristan Park bassist/vocalist Brian Coombes. Isn't It Pretty To Think So? features both vocalist (and Brian's wife) Michelle Coombes and one time Tristan Park guitarist Mike McAdam. If you are expecting a continuation of Tristan Park, you won't find it (not really), though there is some continuation with the heavier rock of "Where Do We Go From Here" and the closing track "Not A World Untouched."

Waking In The Blue is a quartet whose mid-tempo sound on their debut release is a mix of rock and pop, with elements of modern country as well (and some twang in "Two" and to begin "Window"). The sound of the first few tracks recalls 10,000 Maniacs, where "Gum" reminds one of "Candy Everybody Wants" (Our Time In Eden), and both "Two" and "Windows" recalls "Like The Weather" (In My Tribe), the latter because words/phrases in the lyrics of "?Weather" crop up in "Two." But, I also thought of Mary Chapin Carpenter (and a few country artists who, because I'm no expert, I can't actually name? Lorrie Morgan comes to mind, though). All these influences were, of course, placed (gently) into a blender and? well, well, blended. Coombes' tone is "sweeter" and higher than either Merchant's or Chapin Carpenter's, and maybe in that a little more "innocent." As I was first listening to this, listening to Coombes, I thought of Aleena, the female vocalist on the last two Kaipa projects, and thought that the latter could learn a thing or two from Coombes ? just when I think a note is going to be "sour" (that is, flat or wrong for the melody), she gets it in the right direction (whether in pitch or tone). What I don't hear a lot of singers do, that Coombes does, is enunciate ? there is never a question of "what did she just sing?" and because her voice is clear and clean, this makes the vocals intimate.

While most of the album is bright and sunny in sound, the album ends with the darker, moodier "Not A World Untouched," which has a keyboard intro that recalled for me Genesis' "No Son Of Mine"* (We Can't Dance) and the keys retain a Invisible Touch-period keyboard tone throughout. And yet, "Not A World?" is ultimately hopeful lyrically, touching upon themes of faith in these trying times. And while you might chuckle at first to the first verse of "Gum" ("The problem with gum is it loses flavor. / The problem with life is it's too much like gum."), in the end, it is not a happy track, as you realize just how true that statement can be ? life (or anything) can loose its thrill after time (or repetition) without refreshing**. A similar theme from a different angle is given in "Without Passion," where the protagonist has lost the passion for the things s/he has loved when it becomes a "have to" not a "want to?" It's non-specific enough that if you ever felt that way about something, you can insert your reference. It is a beefier piece than found on the rest of the album (which isn't light weight fluffery, mind you), where heavier guitars, bass, and presence of percussion all in percolate in a strutting rhythm that is always on the verge of exploding ? a classic rock sound with Coombes' vocals sliding across it all. Brian joins Michelle on lead vocals for "A Single Autumn Day," though Michelle handles the bulk of the vocals. Their voices mesh nicely, giving a warmth to a piece that's mood is chilly. Nice, very warm, sax solo from McDonald, too.

Romantic relationships, mainly those ending or troubled (the jazzy, brassy, musicially upbeat "Why Then?" which is catchy single material and one of my favourites), are the subject matter for many songs, and the lyrics are introspective across the board (especially "Possessions," which features a neat, though brief, guitar lead from McAdams).

Joining the Coombes', and McAdam on guitars, is Bryan Duff, who also contributes violin on "Phoebe," a song about a relationship of a different sort, that of a parent knowing that one can't always be there to protect a child (at least how I read it). Jim Turmel plays drums and/or percussion on most tracks. Guest appearances come in the form of Chris Difford (Squeeze) on "Two;" Ian McDonald (King Crimson, Foreigner) on sax ("A Single Autumn Day", "Not A World Untouched"), flute ("Window," "Phoebe"), bass clarinet ("Phoebe"), and acoustic guitar ("A Single Autumn Day"); ex-TP's Ray Bowles on backing vocals ("Window"), Michelle's sister Karen Grenier (with whom she sang in New England clubs) on guitars ("Window," "Possessions"), among others (see credits below). Well, you should know that I love the sound of sax and brass, so these are all pluses for me (and something I liked about Tristan Park's A Place Inside.

And while I said that if you were expecting more Tristan Park like prog, you'd not find it. Listening to some of the instrumentation, on "Where Do We Go From Here?" for example, it is there, in the guitars of McAdam and the use of mellotron by Coombes.

Isn't It Pretty To Think So? is a very nice debut release that goes down easily, and isn't too pop for the prog set. And aside from Difford's presence, I'd have said "smart pop" a la Squeeze, though not as quirky and not as "pop." And yet just pop enough to not be prog (and admittedly, the band doesn't consider this prog anyway).

*yes, that's the second time in two months that this song comes to mind. **Yes, I'm afraid, "does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?" did run through my head just then.

Gum / Two / Window / Phoebe / Where Do We Go? / Possessions / Why Then? / Without Passion / A Single Autumn Day / Not A World Untouched

Brian Coombes ? keyboards, mellotron bass, bass pedals, vocals
Michelle Coombes ? vocals
Mike McAdam ? guitars
Bryan Duff ? guitars (2), violin (4, 8)
Jim Turmel ? drums (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), percussion (4, 6, 8, 10)
Dave Pierog ? drums (1, 3, 9, 10)
Brian Ristola ? bass (1, 5, 7, 9)
Chris Difford ? backing vocals (2)
Ray Bowles ? backing vocals (3)
Eric "Bongo" Smith ? tambourine (2)
Karen Grenier ? guitars (3), acoustic guitars (6)
Dave Lloyd ? guitar (3)
Ian McDonald ? flutes (4), bass clarinets (4), acoustic guitar (9), saxophones (9, 10)
Christine Fawson ? trumpet (7)
Johann Pykko ? tenor sax (7)
Bernardo Monk ? alto sax (7)
Neejar Khajanchi ? trombone (7)
Sean Grey ? electric guitar (9)
Rick Carignan ? backing vocals (10)

Waking In The Blue (2003)

Genre: Rock

Origin US

Added: February 9th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.wakingintheblue.com
Hits: 1422
Language: english


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