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CD REVIEW: Justin Young - Clean Slate (2012)

By: Cyrus Rhodes











Artist: Justin Young
Album: Clean Slate
Label: Independent Artist

Genre: Pop-Rock
Sounds Like: Billy Joel, Michael Buble, Marc Cohen, Rufus Wainwright
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Photographs, I will always be (Your Hero), Before you Said Goodbye

Weakness: Winded Songs, Repetitive Catalogue - needing more Instrumentation


Virginia Beach, VA Singer/Songwriter Justin Young releases his latest CD entitled "Clean Slate” in 2012. Justin’s been playing piano since the age of 5 and his story is quite inspiring as his wife passed away in an automobile accident 2 years ago. Music can be an very powerful thing in that respect.


The CD quickly takes flight with “Flowers Never Die” and dynamic piano driven intro groove that serves up steady rock groove against catchy vocal melodies and harmonies from Young. Track 2 is hands down my personal favorite “Photographs” sifts gears with its smooth flowing beat with heartfelt vocal melody line and grand slam chorus from Young. Track 2 evolves into a solid rock groove with clever lyrical content and impressive vocal accents to boot - an amazing piece. Track 3 “Before you Said Goodbye” serves up a hypnotic musical groove meshed against impressive piano and strings accent along the way. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Billy Joel, Marc Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, Michael Buble, and even Barry Manilow. This CD makes a pretty solid first impression. Right from the start you will notice rich musical textures overflowing everywhere, full of warmth, variety and strong melodic structure. I would classify this music as catchy pop rock, with a slight aftertaste of alternative folk. The songs themselves are addictive and upbeat, complete with positive, carefree subject matter. The musicianship of this band is pretty solid across the board. The players themselves write and play there parts extremely well song for song. Make no bones about it – these are solid players. Along the way you will notice lush layers of instrumentation layered everywhere. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also catch impressive things well placed Piano, solo guitar, and a think and impressive rhythm section and well placed string accents and harmonies. Youngs' voice works well across the board as he fills the sonic space peacefully and unobtrusively. I might add Young takes many vocal risks indicating to me a strong and confident vocal ability. He has an impressive vibrato and appealing vocal timber. All songs are short and sweet musical experiences. From passionate “Sweet November” and ”Ashley” to heartfelt “Michael” and Moment” to thought provoking “Unspoken Prayer” to rocking “I Will Always Be (Your Hero” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 12 “All I Say” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.  There’s even a bonus track 13 Photographs (Extended Version) available.  

If could say anything to Young right now - it would be step back from the mic a bit on some of the slower parts, find that emotional pocket and ride down the intensity just a tad. I really like the voice, the passion and the powerful vibrato and timber, but it’s fair to say he comes on way to strong across the board. Perhaps the vocals are a bit hot in the mix by design, but either way his power can be overbearing at times and become a real wear on the ears. I also wish I head more instrumentation. Things like Acoustic Guitar, Hammond Organ, Cello, Stand up bass, Horns, Saxophone, Harp, Percussive Elements would add more musical variety to the catalogue making it sound less repetitive.  All songs over 4.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. 

Clean Slate is an impressive musical production from start to finish. The music is consistent; the messages are powerful and sung from a very emotional perspective. It’s strong suit – the rich conventional wisdom and musical passion of Young. In his video Young states his music goes much deeper than conventional language, This statement sums up this amazing catalogue as a whole.  He possesses enough musical talent and songwriting prowess to be extremely dangerous. The musicianship is first rate. Once again the vocals, vocal harmonies and melodic accents are brilliantly placed and extremely well crafted. The messages are packed to the hilt with rich conventional wisdom offering hope and compassion along the way. As a listener I remained entertained the entire time.  I don't often do this but the below lyrics from Track 3 "Before you Said Goodbye" are pure gold:


"Amazing how easy it is to find the words you meant to say after the moment is gone, after your chance has slipped away.

I wish I had said I loved you before we said goodbye..."


Cyrus Rhodes

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