Daily Duranie Review: Carnaby Street – Michael Des Barres Band

As promised yesterday, today we are reviewing Michael Des Barres new album, Carnaby Street.  

Once again in case you missed one of our many other disclaimers: we are not paid music critics. For that matter, we’re really not unpaid critics either.  We’re just a couple of music fans. Some may say that we don’t know what we’re doing, and to be fair – they are probably right!  However, it is our opinion that “not knowing what we’re doing” is likely to be what sets us apart, happily so, from every other critic out there. We still listen with our hearts than our heads, and while it might be true that we haven’t reviewed every genre known to man – we still recognize what we love when we hear it.  With that in mind….

Rhonda’s turn:

One thing I love about doing Daily Duranie that I never thought about back when we began is just how much new music we would be encounter here on the blog. Let’s face it, the topic of the blog is pretty focused, and it never occurred to me that we would have the opportunity to delve into different artists. I am appreciating the opportunities to hear new music and learn about different musical backgrounds.  In that regard, Michael Des Barres certainly does not disappoint.

His latest effort reminds me so, so much of the South. I can feel the culture reverberating as I wander aimlessly through the album. There is a “Southern Sensuality” present, as I’ll call it, that is carried on throughout the album. In that respect it is incredibly cohesive and not at all disjointed the way I feel many albums are finished today. The album is very easy listening. By that I don’t mean songs that you’d hear on your local “Love Song” station, I just mean that it is a carefree, easy album. Something you might listen to on some of the warmest nights of the year while you’re sitting outside on the porch or patio enjoying the sweet relief of nighttime air.  When I listen to this album I can’t help but think of summertime.

The opening song off of the album, titled “You’re My Pain Killer” has a fantastic 70s groove with true swagger, paired with what has got to be electric organ – it’s so smooth I double checked to make sure I hadn’t downloaded an early album by mistake. “Sugar” is as hot and sensual as it is raw rock and roll, in delightful opposition to one another. I love those rough edges. The guitar throughout the album, along with Michael’s vocals provide the perfect rough and slightly raunchy edge to the smoothness of keyboards and that ever-present Southern rock groove.

A highlight on the album for me personally, “Carnaby Street” brings Michael’s true musical roots to the forefront.  A British Blues/Rock song if I’ve ever heard one – it’s a standout on the album most certainly, and the driving guitar solo practically brings me to my feet. I would love to hear this one live.

The different textures bring such an amazing dimension to the music, there’s no need for overproduction here. The production is simple and almost raw in parts, which only emphasizes the Southern feel and works extremely well with the music. This album not only has a pleasing rock or blues sound, however. “Please Stay” is a fabulous example of a blues ballad, and if you were smart enough to grab a copy of Carnaby Street that has “The Key of Love”, you’ll hear a sweet, heartfelt ballad – certain to win just about anyone over.

Lyrically, Michael focuses on simple, easy to understand messages.  There is no mystery here over what is being communicated, and it’s very clear – this album is about learning and love. Loving what life has to offer, good, bad and otherwise, a great message to take to ones heart!

Amanda’s turn:

I have a fandom philosophy.  This philosophy says that I should give every side project and solo project of Duran’s a chance.  I also think that means that I should pay some attention to people who have been connected to Duran over the years, including one Michael Des Barres.  Like all of you I found out about Michael through the Power Station in the mid-1980s.  As Rhonda has pointed out in yesterday’s blog, he has been a busy guy.  I knew that to be the case as I have seen him in various acting roles.  My goodness.  Who doesn’t just adore his portrayal of Nick in the movie, Sugartown, which also features our favorite bass player?!  That said, when we started to notice that Michael had a new album out, I knew it was only a matter of time before I decided to give it a try!  The fact that he has been active on twitter hasn’t hurt, either.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for any artist who reaches out to make connections with fans.  Even though, I was interested in the album, I really had no idea of what to expect.  I also knew that like the Koishii and Hush song featuring John Taylor, I had to go in knowing that I couldn’t judge it in the same way that I judge Duran.  Nope.  It wouldn’t be fair as they are different.
As soon as I put on Michael’s album, I knew that this was the right way to go.  This would be less about looking at the music from a thinking perspective and more from a feeling perspective.  There is a raw quality about the music that grips you from the first note of “You’re My Pain Killer” that doesn’t let up until the very last note.  It is a bit jarring at first because Duran is the exact opposite of raw.  Every note, every sound has been perfected and polished in completed Duran songs.  One of the songs that really shows this rawness well is the song, “Please Stay.”  It starts off at a slower tempo, producing a melancholy vibe.  Yet, as the song progresses, the melancholy becomes more and more intense, more and more distressing.  The emotion is pouring through from the backing vocals to the lyrics itself as Michael pleads and pleads for this woman to be his.  This is straight up rock ‘n’ roll that reminds me of every bar in America on any given day with musicians playing their hearts and souls out, feeling every lyric and every note.  The production enhances this feel, too, as it seems like it is purposefully left to feel live, to feel like the music was meant to be and not how the studio could create it.  
The beauty of the album is that it doesn’t feel like anyone thought too much.  Instead, they let the music speak for itself.  This is clear in the production and it is clear in the lyrics.  One of the things that immediately grabbed my attention is that the lyrics were straightforward—sometimes emotional and other times a bit naughty.  Heck, sometimes, they were even political in nature, which caught my attention.  Take a song like “Little Latin Lover” that dives a bit into the immigration debate without being preachy.  In fact, the song shows how issues like that really can be personal ones as well.  I admire him for not shying away from tough subjects and doing it in a way that isn’t in-your-face or opinionated.  He managed to walk a fine line here that most artists can’t.  
Overall, while the album isn’t very Duran like, there are elements that I really found refreshing.  The raw quality of all elements from the instrumentation to the production to the lyrics provides a nice break from the stylized music that I listen to the most.  This music is just about being music, which really is all about feeling.  Emotion.  Passion.  It is also about playing live, which this album would totally lend itself to.  I know that Michael has a couple of live dates planned but would love to see more added since this album was built for live performance.


Also available at iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby – grab your copy today!

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