I’m forced to admit that I didn’t think I’d like Can't Complain. After the first listen I only liked one cut. Now after a couple weeks of exposure, I find most of the songs popping into my head - even after several days since my last listen.
My prejudice was caused by a misperception that this CD was supposed to be a straight-ahead rock release. It seemed easy to pigeonhole: “movie star, Kevin Bacon, wants to be rock star and puts out trite formula based rock songs.” Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Even after weeks of listening, this album is hard to describe as a whole, at times sounding like Jakob Dylan, Pink Floyd, James Taylor, The BoDeans, and a less edgy Mellencamp.
A broad umbrella for category would be Americana, but the inconsistencies in my attempts at overall description amaze me. Rock and roll, veering at times toward country, but steering more toward Southwestern acoustic rock, but using overdriven rock guitar. Add in a dash of strings, some brass, blues harp, or vintage sounding organ, and it throws the stereotypical rock image out the window. And I think that’s the goal of the Bacon Brothers, and truthfully… I “Can’t Complain.”
1. Paris (5:02) - the swirling strings of the quartet that opens this song can catch you off guard before the more expected sounds of guitars, bass and drums take foreground on this song about being a self-made prisoner in a Paris hotel room. Tense, low energy verses contemplating paranoia build into straight ahead rocking choruses.
2. Grace (4:07) - a Mavericks and Chris Isaac flavored atmospheric ballad with shimmering acoustic guitar, lumbering bass, and big twangy low-registered lead guitar supporting the warmly harmonized refrain "Girl but for the grace of you, go I."
3. Don't Leave The Lava Lamp On For Me (4:22) - a semi-interesting revisitation of the 1960's via a couple vignettes of the 60's youth culture, starting of with the visitation of a 17 year old, ganja smoking, Phish fan being preached to by a sober overweight 60's rock star.
4. Mother Fear (5:19) - initially sounding like an acoustic ballad about about the woman you can't get out of your thoughts, it pleasantly begins to resemble a Pink Floyd inspired song about the spirit of fear and her power over us. Vocal harmonies, heavily chorused rhythm and dreamy slide guitar at to the effect of the melodic and lyric content.
5. Sooner or Later (4:10) - very stripped-down, pensive song for an old friend of Kevin Bacon's who apparently needs to "stand and walk back home." Cello and banseri flute beautifully fill out this acoustic guitar based number.
6. Heart Half Full (3.56) - at first, the strings playing over a slow 50's rock feel, sound like a missing cut from the soundtrack of Grease. But it doesn't stop. Every verse has Michael Bacon sounding like James Taylor singing the lost Grease song. It's not bad at all, just distracting.
7. Can't Complain (3:24) - an upbeat tune about being able to say that you can't complain in spite of various difficult situations. Somewhat weighty subject matter for such a festive sounding cut.
8. Light The Way (4:47) – opening with ominous vocal harmonies, the verses of this anthemic ballad carry the listener through a storyscape of shattered dreams and broken promises, to a chorus of hopeful anticipation. It’s a feelbad-then-feelgood song that Bacon Brothers are able to pull off very well.
9. Baby Steps (3:02) – the only track that I liked the first time I gave this disc a spin. It’s a festive warm-fuzzy song (a message style I generally don’t like). However, between the overall instrumentation and the melodic hooks, the Pollyanna lyrics become less of an issue with me.
10. I'm So Glad I'm Not Married (2:57) – testosterone filled tribute to not being married to the overly playful gal who happens be some other guy’s prize. It rocks, but probably one of the more average cuts.
11. Summer of Love (Woodstock '99) (5:19) – rough hewn look at a couple buddy’s summer exploits before, during, and after the ill-fated Woodstock ’99. Not the shining star on this disc, but not merely filler.
12. She Is The Heart (5:37) – lush strings that open the first minute, transition nicely to only voice and piano for the first verse. The remainder is a delicate balance of voice, piano, and strings. No drums, no bass, just great music. Definitely one of the best written, arranged, and performed songs on the album.
13. Bus (3:40) – a frantic acoustic guitar based homage to that gal that meets their collective needs mile after mile after mile after mile….
Kevin Bacon : Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
Michael Bacon : Guitar, Vocals, Arranger, Conductor, Producer
Irwin Fisch : Piano
Paul Guzzone : Bass, Loops, Synthesizer, Vocals (Background)
Marshall Rosenberg : Loops, Percussion
Ira Siegel : Guitar (Electric), Mandolin, Sitar (Electric), Vocals (Background)
Frank Vilardi : Drums, Percussion