Notes From The Underground

Elliott Murphy

Reverie

Jann Klose

One is a veteran with 30 albums to his credit; the other is a German-born, African-bred singer with considerably less recording time under his belt. We’re talking two drastically different styles of music, production and even vocal ability — one guy more interested in songs of the heart, the other a well-worn troubadour. So why the hell have I decided to combine my reviews of Elliott Murphy’s Notes From The Underground and Jann Klose’s Reverie? Well, both musicians are personal singer/songwriters with a definite sense of themselves shown to great aplomb on their most recent CDs.

I’m not exactly sure how to describe either man’s style without using some well-worn examples. Klose reminds me of some of the old European singer/songwriters, guys like Serge Gainsbourg, though his songs are not as ribald. He writes straight-ahead love songs like “Beautiful Dream,” the opening number on Reverie. This is a mid-tempo romantic quasi-salsa number, complete with strings. The lush, though I’m-not-sure-it-ever-gets-anywhere “Give In To This Life” continues in this plaintive love vain, while “All These Rivers” showcases all the key elements of the album — orchestration, Klose’s unique voice and a penchant for sentimentality and romance.

Murphy explores similar themes on the clever story-within-a-song opener “And General Robert E. Lee” and “Lost and Lonely.” He also gets real sweet on “Ophelia.” His near- perfect “Crepuscule” may be his best lyric; it’s also the most rockin’ song on Notes From The Underground. Given Klose’s stage credits (he was cast in productions of “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”), “Questions of the Heart” is a nice piano and vocal piece that sounds like a Broadway show tune. On the other hand, “Ithica” is a big surprise, a forlorn instrumental that ranks as a favorites off Reverie.

Klose has a technically better voice, while Murphy prevails in the more Lou Reed school of transcribing lyrics without regard to the melody, especially on something like “On My Mind.” He’s smart enough to use the Normandy All-Stars’ backing vocalists to sustain the melodies to full effect, pulling off Tom Petty sound-alike choruses in “Robert E. Lee” and “Lost and Lonely.” Klose gets positively Paul McCartney on “Doing Time” (not a bad guy to emulate) and uses his rather competent pipes to great effect on songs where it’s only him, piano and strings, such as on “Mother Said, Father Said.”

Mention should be made of some stand-out players backing Murphy and Klose on their albums. Oliver Durand is listed as Murphy’s creative assistant on the liner notes of Notes From The Underground, but he also plays some tasty slide guitar on the album. Klose has a group of fantastic players with him, with guitarist Ryan Scott appearing on most of the tunes. Lars Potteiger plays some lovely piano lines and Dan Brantigan contributes some freaking flugelhorn, of all things, on one tune!

Elliott Murphy and Jann Klose, who have toured together, may be worlds apart as songsmiths, players, and vocalists. Miles away in influences and experiences, they are gifted musicians with something to say. They say it well on Notes From The Underground and Reverie, respectively.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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