CD REVIEW: Jack Jeffery - The Constant that Remains (2011)
By: Cyrus Rhodes
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Alternative Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Ambient
Sounds Like: Sparklehorse, Alan Parsons, Pink Floyd
Technical Grade: 7/10
Engineering Aspects (Mix, Mastering), Winded Songs, Commercial Value
(Due to mix)
Composer Jack Jeffery releases his second release entitled The Constant That Remains in 2011. This latest release closely follows his critically-acclaimed first album "Passage to Agadir" and once again transports the listener through a compelling musical journey through ambient, psychedelic, electronic, acoustic, and folk rock soundscapes. Influences range from Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, The Beatles, to Kraftwerk and even Brian Eno.
The CD gently takes to flight with soothing intro piece “We Need it Back (The Modern Dream). This song methodically serves up infectious guitar ambience against trippy rock rhythm and rich sonic melodies and psychedelic vocal flair from Jeffery. Track 2 “Rearranged” shifts gears a bit with Pink Floyd type guitar-driven groove meshed against trippy vibe and hooky vocal melodies from Jeffery. Track 3 “A Please a Dreamer” serves up a striking piece complete with thought provoking lyrical content and mesmerizing vocals the flow and ebbs it's way to through emotional fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Alan Parsons Project, Beatles, Sparklehorse, and Pink Floyd. This CD makes a pretty solid first impression. Right from the start you will notice rich musical textures overflowing everywhere, full of mystery, variety and rich sonic layering. I would classify this music as sonic pop rock, with a slight aftertaste of alternative rock - but very trippy and psychedelic in nature. The songs themselves are addictive and extremely thought provoking complete with mysterious subject matter. The musicianship of of Jeffery is pretty solid across the board. He writes and plays his parts extremely well. Along the way you will notice lush layers of instrumentation. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice impressive things like well-placed strings, rich vocal layering and harmonies, classical musical touches, impressive ambience and impressive keyboard and synthesizer accents layered along the way. Like the aforementioned - the sonic layering is off the charts. Jeffery’ voice works well across the board and fills the sonic space peacefully and unobtrusively. From solitary "Gavotte for African Steele Guitar" and "Valencian Cosmos", to hypnotic “Everything Changes” and Ascendancy” to psychedelic “Fade Away” to mesmerizing “The Sirrius Wall” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with track 12 “Carry On’ the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
I like Jeffery’s vocal style, but there are times I really wish he would take more vocal risks thus pushing the emotional envelope a bit more - especially during some of the finale moments. It’s fair to say the CD suffers from sonic over saturation, or sonic overdose. Which indicates to me a broader issue: the Engineering aspects. Though I give Jeffery an A+ for effort, the mix falls short when compared to other professional productions within the genera. Turing to the liner notes - I don’t see any specifics on the Engineers involved (I/E Recording, Mixing, and Mastering Engineers). The overall production quality (recording, mixing, mastering) seems to be somewhat erratic, amateurish and a bit all over the place. From drums that lack serious bottom end, to obscure sounding distorted guitars, to vocal levels that seem extremely disproportional to the music – this CD has all the trademarks of a high-end "basement" mix from start to finish. I also detected a few subtle timing issues throughout the CD as well. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. Bottom Line - It takes skill and engineering savvy to record, mix and master a musical production to industry standards these days. Each phase of the production process should be handled by a different musical professional as well. The impact this will have on its overall marketability cannot be overstated. I will add that because the songs themselves are so well crafted, this issue is s somewhat transparent. Jeffery clearly makes up for it in other areas and manages to make his point despite the production quality. As a listener I remained entertained the entire time. I fully realize this is a subjective art form, but many of the aforementioned issues do effect the CD's overall Marketability and Commercial Value.
The Constant That Remains by Jack Jeffery is in itself a brilliant snapshot of music from an amazing artist from Virginia. It’s an impressive musical production from start to finish that just flows like a musical journey track to track. The music is highly creative, original, trippy possessing much in the way of amazing psychedelics and sonic depth. The messages are extremely thought provoking and mysterious in nature. It’s strong suit – the amazing songwriting and creative virtuoso of Jack Jeffery. He possesses enough musical talent and songwriting prowess to be extremely dangerous. If he manages surround himself with a few world class Engineers - his next release will be for the gods.