CD Review – Bill Mallonee “Amber Waves”
“Amber Waves” is Bill Mallonee’s 50th Album. Surprised me, and I’ve been a fan since the 1992 Vigilante’s of Love release “Killing Floor”. Prolific could have been coined specifically for Bill. I’ve been told he writes more than a hundred songs a year.
His WPA series, (11 EP’s in 4 years) were satisfying for his fans but seemed not quite fully realized. Rough around the edges, workmanlike, raw.
“Amber Waves” comes to us complete and fully polished. 13 songs filled with layers of guitars mixed so well there is not a single muddy note. Ex- VOLmembers Jake Bradley (guitars,bass) and Kevin Heuer (drums) form a cohesive unit wrought by years of playing together.
The title cut lures you in. Two guitars softly playing lines that become the melody and rhythm. Bill’s plaintive vocal evoking a sense of what we’ve lost on our travels, leading into to a gorgeous, understated outro guitar duel.
“To The Nines” reminds us this is Rock and Roll. Driving beat, bit of overdrive on the guitars as they take us “to the farthest edge of town”.
“One Kiss At A Time” hints at Bob Delevante to me. I say that as a good thing. A song that’s not an unrealistic vision of “happily ever after”, but a look at the anticipation of, and journey into, love. As close to a “Pop” song as Bill’s ever gonna get.
“Faith (Soaked In Gasoline)” follows. The song most likely to have my friends compare Bill to Neil Young again. If you’re going to be compared to someone, Neil ain’t bad. With it’s references to Hooverville, 100 jobs for 1.000 men, kids like skeletons, … the song hints at where we may be going again “when the fella strikes the match”.
There are a few acoustic gems here. “Long Since Gone”,Yeah Yeah Yeah (Faith Like a Butterfly’s Wings) and the closer “Into God Knows What”. The last seems to question …. everything. “when the box gets shut, let me go down easy, into God knows what”. I never have had the faith myself. Guess it’ll be another adventure. Or nothing at all.
My favorite track is “Break In The Clouds”. It’s been around for a while as a demo/first draft.The final version was worth the wait. The descending minor chords, the edge of the cliff almost dissonant melody. It not only works, it rocks!
America these days seems to find itself wondering where we’ve been , where we are and where we’re going. “Amber Waves” is going to be a great soundtrack for the next few years.
I’d kill to have Bill’s sense of song structure, chordal voicings and lyrical content. Paste magazine has him 65th on the list of “Best 100 Songwriters” He’s worked with Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller. So why is Bill Mallonee still considered “underground”. Why is he not rich and famous? Wish I knew.
Could it be his open Christian beliefs? Not that I’m saying America has a bias against Christians. Not opening that can of worms today folks. However, I do wonder if his views have lumped him in with “Christian Rock”. His lyrics may reflect his beliefs but Bill does not proselytize, lecture or give sermons on record. There is a big difference between “Christian Rock” and Christians who Rock!
Did I forget to mention this CD rocks?
It’s going into my top ten of the year. May even be #1.
For more on Bill Mallonee and his music visit www.billmallonee.net