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From the first bass notes of "Man Vs. Machine" the opening track from Sean Noonan's Man No Longer Me it's obvious that this isn't your average jazz fusion record. The Irish American Noonan combines West African rhythms, with jazz harmony, and the absurdist humor and attitude of Frank Zappa, making this release a welcome respite from the tepid "Berklee Funk" that often populates jazz fusion.
The album is based on the loose concept of a man's transformation into a coyote. The majority of the songs seem unrelated to the central idea though.
"Man vs. Machine" is one of the highlights of the album featuring a great keyboard solo by Johnny Richards, and a driving groove from bassist Michael Burdon. The follow-up track "Not I" is another highlight, with horn stabs propelling the song forward, as Noonan sings about "jumping into a pool of ketchup."
The title track drives into a heavy disjointed groove, featuring bass, strings, and keyboard flowing in and out as Noonan's drums lead the show. After one minute the rhythm stops for a freer abstract avant-garde section before the pounding groove once again returns. The loud-quiet dynamic is an excellent way of making the original beat hit harder the second time around. Man, No Longer Me suffers from a bit of filler, and lack of focus. The innuendo-filled "Pussy Cat's Gone Wild" is an example of the filler that plagues the album. The song would work best as an entertaining 2-minute interlude, due to the comedic but banal lyrics and lackluster groove compared the experimentation throughout the album. But Noonan stretches the concept out to around 6 minutes. To Noonan's credit, he does add an interesting instrumental section at the 3-minute mark, to vary the track up.
"I Am Your Pineapple" suffers from the same problems that "Pussy Cat's Gone Wild" does, but on a much larger scale, since it lacks the instrumental freak out that saves "Pussy Cats Gone Wild."
As mentioned before, the overall concept of the album is hard to recognize as Noonan goes in so many different directions. The record is quite lengthy at 66 minutes so Noonan could have afforded to cut a couple of pieces.
Noonan's unique vocal tone and delivery could also turn off some listeners, but his voice does add a particular character to his songs.
Overall, despite some filler and length issues, Noonan's willingness to experiment makes Man No Longer Me one the most eclectic releases this year.
Track Listing: Man vs. Machine; Not I; Pussy Cat’s Gone Wild; Man No Longer Me; He Skarbnik He; Cupid’s Packing Heat; I Am Your Pineapple; Eat My Makeup; Queen of Kings; Lost in Guenter’s Wald; Bia.
Personnel: Sean Noonan producer, drummer, composer, vocals; Johnny Richards keyboards; Michael Bardon bass; Norbert Buerger guitar; Mandhira De Saram violin (track 3,6,7,8); Patrick Dawkins violin (track 3,6,7,8); Richard Jones viola (track 3,6,7,8); Valerie Welbanks cello (track 3,6,7,8); Manuel Cossu baritone (track 3,6,7,8); Matteo Siddi tenor (track 3,6,7,8).
Marta Melis alto (track 3,6,7,8)
Alice Madeddu soprano (track 3,6,7,8)
Adam Roszkowski violin (track 4,5,9)
Jan Roszkowski cello (track 4,5,9)
Maciej Afanasjew violin (track 4,5,9)
Adam Debski viola (track 4,5,9)
Harry Saltzman sax
Robert Alonso trumpet
Roman Sladek trombone
Sean Hargreaves co-producer
Samuele Dessi vocal tracking
Rikky Damian string tracking
Michal Kupicz mixing
Graemme Brown mastering
Dirk Eusterbrock photography
April Townes special effects makeup
Title: Man No Longer Me
| Year Released: 2017
| Record Label: Haldern Pop Recordings
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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