Spencer Albee: Spencer
Don't let this gruff exterior fool you one minute. Spencer Albee's being himself! For over 20 years, the multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter (and producer) has entertained alternative, indie-rock and pop fans with his high-energy, Beatle-esque infused, sound. As a consumate frontman, he knows how to play to the crowd and leave everyone screaming for one more song. Other musical influences include Jeff Lynne (ELO), The Who, David Bowie, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin and Beck.
To his merit, Albee has toured the US and Canada in support of 13 studio albums with Rustic Overtones, As Fast As (Rocktopus), The Popsicko, Space Versus Speed, and Spencer and the Schoolstreet Mafia. Plans to record his first solo album surfaced in summer 2012. "Let's make an album," his Pledge Music profile read. After a successful financial drive, the highly anticipated "Spencer" is released in less than one year, on July 9, 2013. Albee says of this particular project, "It's me. Melancholy. Something I'm proud of."
First, thank you, Lee, for putting a (signed) copy of "Spencer" in my hands and on my "must listen" list. I enjoyed the initial play through very much, but did not fully appreciate the immense production value until the 3rd and 4th listens. Because "Spencer" is stuck in my car stereo (literally!), I've heard it at least 10 times by now. An omen, I guess.♥
I marvel at songwriters and their intrinsic ability to illustrate emotions and events in such a way that each song is a short story, one with a beginning, middle and end. Albee tackles serious subjects here, addressing relationships, love and loss, miscommunication and compromise, trust and doubt, and even his own death. From track #2, "Lucky", I found the phrase, "We act like two lions in a cage," an intelligent description of an argument. Then a question about living conditions in the afterlife, "Can I take my bigTV to the great beyond?", from the tongue and cheek "When Will I Die?", had me giggling aloud and pondering my own demise. The lyrical content is candid, creative, sophisticated, and whimsical, putting Albee in the big league.
"Spencer" is jam-packed with layers of instrumentation, keyboard-driven melodies, digital affects and meticulously sung harmonies. The uptempo lead track, "It's Alive", sets the pace for the next 45 minutes. Albee's pop vocal tone and articulation are spot on. The hook, "Hey, hey, I...Hey, hey, I.." is infectious and the perfect crowd sing-a-long. What's more, the musical score is featured in Portland, Maine's recent tourism campaign video.
Staying true to his roots, Albee encorporates orchestral and choral arrangements (like in so many Beatles and Electric Light Orchestra hit songs) into several numbers. There are bursts of strings, horns and harmonies that give the music character and texture, but then there are more complex sequences, complete with solos, which must've required the presence of a conductor for the full-on ensemble of 25 singers and 40 collaborating musicians. Oh...and if you're a fan of horns, pay close attention to the saxophone solo 3/4 way through "Lucky". I've never heard a sax respond like this. It gave me goosebumps.♥
I've grown especially fond of "California's Calling", the first single and "cornerstone" for the album. “On every record I do, there’s always one song that’s a catalyst for the whole record,” said Albee. "You kinda get onto a new sound or vibe and you just know that’s where you’ll live. The first song I wrote with that inspiration was “California’s Calling”." Albee's breathy vocal, the weepish, pedal steel guitar, and video, tug at the heartstrings. CALIFORNIA'S CALLING
Initially, the cover of Gordon Lightfoot's 1974 hit "Sundown" seemed out of place to me, especially amid nine original compositions. Why this song? On this album, I wondered? But as I paid closer attention and really examined the music, I found the digital distortion, keyboard and strings extremely innovative. An approach Bowie or Beck might take? I closed my eyes and let the atmospheric and psychedelic mood expand my mind. By songs end, I envisioned his soul (the male character's) hovering over the back staircase, waiting for Sundown. (Darn imagination!) I must add, the new version was well recieved by fans at the CD release party, held July 20, 2013 at Port City Music Hall.
The public support has been overwhelming, marking one ofAlbee's best works to date. "Spencer" is the #1 selling album at Bull Moose Records (his biggest release in 10 years). It's the talk of local TV and radio stations WCSH, WPXT, WCLZ and WHSN. Both Bangor Daily News and The Phoenix have printed favorable reviews.Lastly, I could go on and on about "Spencer" and what I like, but feel it's important for the listener to form their own opinion, too. I encourage multiple listens, though.
To preview songs, check out iTunes. Download tracks via iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. Hardcopy CD (and I think vinyl) available at Bull Moose Records (in-store locations, Maine and New Hampshire, or on-line http://www.bullmoose.com/). And lest not forget that 'music fans' are consumers; the choices we make matters. So...if you dig "Spencer", please, spread the good word. Independent artists, musicians and bands need support more than ever before. To follow Spencer Albee, and any of his bands, check out Facebook and Twitter.
Yours in music,