Adrian Whitehead is Gear.

September 4, 2008 at 6:20 am (new releases, reviews, rock and roll)


I seem to be posting a lot about very, very poppish stuff, so if this is overkill I can only beg forgiveness for now…

…but if you happen to love absolutely gloriously executed pop-rock craftsmanship and brilliant songwriting, let me tell you about an Ozzie named Adrian Whitehead. Far too many singers who can do a fey vocal quaver and saccharine harmony get a free pass from critics and fans who buy into it and wonder why the marginally talented slobs they’re championing never get any recognition. I’m guessing they also wonder why albums by such non-talents become forgettable so fast.

It’s all about the songs. A lot of people can sing like Brendan Benson, maybe…but very few can write a hook like “Cold Hands Warm Heart” or “I’m Easy”.

Which brings me back to Adrian Whitehead. No idea who the bloke is. No idea where he cobbled together a recording budget to put his debut album “One Small Stepping Man” together with either, but the production here is stellar (strings, a variety of keys, and even a sax). No idea where he learned to write and arrange and sing songs like these either…but what a stunning record he’s made.

You can listen to the whole album right here.

My favorite tracks are the first two, “Caitlin’s ’60’s Pop Song” and “Saving Caroline”. The former song he says he wrote to entertain his 8-year old niece to make her smile after a funeral for their great-grandfather. How sweet is that? The latter song starts off sounding like vintage Styx(!), but again finds a groove that belongs solely to Adrian Whitehead. I also dig “You Are The Sun” and “Ways Of Man” a lot. “Elle” is five minutes of exquisitely gorgeous piano (best one-note piano song in a while) and strings, and “Better Man” has the most gobsmacking hook on the whole disc. What you’ll notice about all the songs is that they never go just where you think they’re going; Whitehead knows exactly what he’s doing, and half the joy of this disc is listening along to hear just exactly what unexpected turn he’s going to take his melody line, and where he’s going to extract a hook from playing the “wrong” chord or notes.

This has been in my heavy rotation now for over a week. Give it a shot, lemme know what you think.

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