CD REVIEW: Guy Sherman - Yule Hear What I Hear (Christmas CD)
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Electronic Alternative Rock, Holiday-Festive, Alternative Rock
Sounds Like: They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Digby Jones, Weird Al Yankovic, The Man Behind C.
Technical Grade: 5/10
Weakness: Winded songs, more live instrumentation, more solo segments, overly synthetic and one dimensional drums and production, no liner notes
Guy Sherman created music for dozens of plays in New York, and received both the Drama Desk and Obie Awards for his outstanding Off-Broadway sound designs. This debut album by seasoned NYC sound artist Guy Sherman is a mash-up of styles -- filled with musical whimsy, and guaranteed to make you smile! Includes 18 well-loved traditional Christmas songs, plus two brand-new originals, and some sonic surprises. Cited Influences include; Pink Floyd, The Beatles and They Might Be Giants. I might add Sherman Recoded, Mixed and Mastered everything himself.
The CD blasts off with ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town” a festive ambient intro piece that serves up hypnotic rhythms, with pulsating bass painted against a colorful canvass of music from that seem to comes at you from every which direction. Track 2 “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”/Jingle Bell Rock” presents a psychedelic kaleidoscope of soothing sound featuring dynamic rhythms, and vivid melody that that flow and ebbs its way through fruition. By track 2 you realize Sherman may be on to something very unique here as these DIY recordings are diamonds in the rough – but diamonds nonetheless. Track 3 “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” shifts gears a bit with its methodical intro, rock steady beat against mesmerizing keyboard and synthesizer accents with hypnotic walls of sound that are infectious and hypnotic. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear so many elements of Electronic Alternative Rock, Holiday-Festive and Alternative Rock painted against a clever canvass of NES gaming-type sound effects. Music reminds me of music from: They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Digby Jones, Weird Al Yankovic and The Man Behind C. You will also notice lush layers musical instrumentation layered everywhere from low end beats and rhythms, to pulsating moog and bass segments, to ambient synthesizer and keyboard accents layered along the way. You will also notice keyboards, electric Piano, Piano, Strings, Moog Bass, Ambient Hors, impressive harmonies, orchestral accents, Guitar, sonic vocal and sound effects, electronic beats and sporadic percussive accents, exotic phased sampling layered within the music. The songs themselves are extremely unique, highly original, and in itself a brilliantly clever. The sound-scapes are interesting, infectious, and hypnotic. The grooves and rhythms are methodical and well placed and the ambient accents are well placed and flow and ebb extremely well song for song. The CD has some truly impressive moments on it showcasing an impressive songwriters touch at the core. I really admire artists that let it all hang out regardless of the outcome and let the chips fall where they may. Sherman is one of thes4 artists. This CD is a bit zany but has something for just about everyone. It’s definitely a dynamic and progressive musical statement that offers a lot of musical variety and vivid sound imagery that push the envelope. From my personal favorite “Rudolph the Red Nosed Rain Deer, to methodical “Carol of the Bells” to rocking “What Child is this” to hypnotic “Silent Night” to swinging “She’s Mrs. Claus” this CD has something for just about everyone. CD ends with Track 11 “Listen to the Following Snow” the prefect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
At the end of the day this CD and all its instrumentation come across as overly synthetic and sounds a bit one dimensional – especially the drums and beats. I would wager this whole CD was recorded using a microphone and a PC. Though the Electronic Drums provide some variety, it's fair to say they lack in thick low end frequency and punch. Whoever put these rhythmic tracks did a great job but they are overly synthetic, lack performance and frequency dynamics, are somewhat predictable and one sided and sound a bit loud within the sonic space. To go with the first comment - adding in a live drummer to go with the Electronic Drums, or bringing in an experience beat master would totally clear this last issue up. I also wish there were more solo segments throughout the CD. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. Mix is adequate but doesn’t swim in the deep end of the pool with pro-caliber artists. This last comment really applies to the frequencies not the performances. I would wager this CD wasn’t even mastered. There are no liner notes whatsoever in the 4 panel foldout indicating who the contributors were to the production. Some of the aforementioned issue are not typical of professional grade CD releases. Typically you want a separate engineer assigned to each phase of production (Recording, Mixing, Mastering). This will give the sound a broader perspective having 3 sets of ears assigned to each phase of production.
Overall this release from Guy Sherman entitled “Yule Hear What I Hear” is actually quite unique and a highly original sonic experience all together. Make no bones about it – this CD took some time to craft and piece together. A guy like Sherman obviously has a lot of free time on his hands and has much in the way of potential as a composer/producer. Equally as impressive is the spin Sherman puts on all these Christmas classics. This CD will also appeal to those who enjoy Electronic Rock with an Alternative Rock aftertaste to it. The festive CD works best for those who want musical ambience to fill their sonic space. I found the listening experience quite refreshing, highly original and unique. It fills the space peacefully and unobtrusively. It flows extremely well song for song and note for note. Sherman is a force to be reckoned with this Holiday season.