CD REVIEW: Jeff McMullen - Pain Management
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist/Band: Jeff McMullen
Rock, Pop, Alternative Rock, Singer/Songwriter
Weakness: Winded Songs, More Vocal Risk-Taking, Dated Sounding Pop, Marketability
(MCKINNEY, TEXAS) Jeff self-taught himself acoustic guitar, and played with numerous bands as lead vocalist. Even as a soloist, he played every weekend at Veladi Steakhouse. He also branched out into producing other artists, including two members of Color Me Badd, played on numerous CD's as guitarist, pianist, vocalist, key programmer, and bass guitarist. His recording company, Blair Records, opened in 2001 and gained Nashville interest with songs he was publishing through his own Two Patricks Publishing. This latest release entitled “Pain Managemnt” Was released in 2012.
The CD gently takes to flight with melodic intro piece “Shyne On” This song serves up infectious rocked out guitar ambience painted against mesmerizing vocals, hypnotic electro-rock rhythm that quickly lead you by the hand down the path of groovy-rock indulgence. In his own words: Sometimes music is the best medicine. This was quite a production. In fact, I couldn't quite get the guitar right on my own; so my Bare Bones partner in crime, Paul Gandolfi, offered his expertise. All in all one of my favorite pieces on the CD. Track 2 shifts gears a bit “Oleander” with its passionate groove, methodical rhythm guitar intro painted against a grand mosaic of vivid vocals. The passionate musical flow and subject matter of this piece brilliantly moves like an ocean across the ears. In his own words: These lyrics will seem off center after your first listen. Go back and listen again. Now go back and listen again… It’s about my addiction. Written completely from an addict’s point of view. Track 3 “Go On” is an impressive heartfelt piece that is quite dynamic, full of dynamics and musical peaks and valleys that flow and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. This piece is remarkably striking to the ears as well with its Alternative Pop Rock touches, amazing solo guitar and hypnotic sonic flow. According to McMullen this was my most difficult song to write. It is extremely personal and accurate. In a marriage you go through ups and downs. Any successful marriage will compensate for the bad times by understanding good times will follow. Sometimes you have to fight to keep it, though. And without trust, you have no lifeline. You need trust to go on. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of a modern more refined version of Foreigner, Survivor, Edwin McCain, Ray Lamontagne, Warren Haynes and Bad Company, but with a more modern vibe of Michael Bolton, Nikelback, Daughtry, I would classify this music as hooky Alternative Rock with a dash of Modern day Rock with a funky catchy aftertaste. The CD presents brilliant flashes of theatrical rocked out ambience and all things life related. You will also notice rich layers of instrumentation layered along the way full of dynamics, juicy Keyboards, Harmonica, Piano, Acoustic guitar, sonic-synthesizer sound effects, impressive solo guitar licks, rocked out rhythm guitar, well placed harmonies, low end rhythm section and enticing melodies. McMullen showcases some impressive singing with an appealing vibrato, warm falsetto and impassioned feel that comes straight from the heart. I get the impression he’s a rocker to the core. His signing works well across the board and at times he actually reminds me of Chad Kroeger (Nikelback) and Paul Rogers (Bad Company). McMullen is a very capable singer/songwriter and he has clearly proven himself with this latest release. His raspy impassioned vocal delivery works well within the confines of this catalog. Pain Management - It’s melodic, it’s catchy, it's thought provoking, re-imagined, impassioned and invigorating. From rock steady “2405” and “Angry” to methodical I’m Not the One” heartfelt The CD ends with Track 9 “It’s Only Rain” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber. By the way I really did the cover art.
All songs over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish-line. McMullen might want to consider trimming of 10%-20% of his songs, then adding 3-4 more tracks. To go with this last comment: CD is a bit short with just 9 songs. Track 2 feels like an incomplete musical statement to me. I wish McMullen took more vocal risks especially during the finalle moments of his music showcasing more blood curling vocal emotion. People don't buy plastic, they buy emotions. Some aspects of this production come across as sounding a bit dated reminiscent of classic pop popular 20+ years ago. Some of this plays into marketability. I can’t hear the solo guitar on “It’s Only Rain” (2:23 – END) as it’s pushed way back in the mix and would have complimented the climatic ending of the song/album very well.
Pain Management by Jeff McMullen is a compelling musical journey. Its strong suit is its consistent song for song musical flow, songwriting/vocal consistency and impressive "wise" lyrical content. McMullen gets high marks from me for their brilliant musical approach bringing in his life experiences to the table to help others get through their own struggles. It's clearly why he was put here on earth and my hats off to him for not taking the ill advice many years ago and quitting the craft. Above all he is armed with some powerful life's journey to write about. This CD will be a real joy for those listeners out there who want flowing 80's poppy ambience to fill their sonic space peacefully and unobtrusively. This rocking- poppish somewhat ambient format makes for a great extended play experiences. I recommend you just hit play, close your eyes and see where the passion takes you.