The Great Awakening: A CD Review
~ Cyrus Rhodes - Muse's Muse
The CD kicks things off with “Flurries” a peaceful intro piece that serves up acoustic rock groove that leads you into track 2 “5th of May” an upbeat Americana rock groove with driving rock rhythm meshed with an infectious bluesy-rock melody that flows & ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. I especially like how this piece builds towards a grand slam finale. Track 3 “”O Brother” dishes out yet another solid track with it’s passionate, heartfelt vocal delivery by Fleig, solid bluesy rock groove & impressive lyrical content. The CD makes a solid first impression dishing out 3 rock solid songs in a row. As the CD unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Counting Crows, Grateful Dead, Everclear, Blind Mellon, & even Blues Traveler & Pearl Jam. Right from the start you will notice Fleig & company feel quite comfortable just letting it all hang out musically, not holding anything back. The overall musical vibe has a nice bluesy-rock, raw indie feel to it. The bands playing is rock solid across the board as they dish out impressive bluesy guitar licks, rock solid rhythm guitar playing & a few acoustic chops that will make your head spin. Equally as impressive is Fleig’s vocal presence as he takes several vocal risks throughout the CD indicating to me a strong & confident vocal ability. Fleig’s voice goes down smooth & is full of passion, & recklessness abandon. Fleig’s got the voice & plays guitar well. If he just so happened to write all these songs – well that pretty much makes him a musical triple threat. The musicianship from all the other members in the band is above the bar & has everything you would expect from a standard 3 piece delivery. Fleig clearly makes the (singer to listener) vocal connection with his singing. The songs themselves are short & sweet musical experiences, each one possessing unique personality, flair, & signature groove in classic Jam Band fashion. From upbeat “ No Worries” to passionate “Enemy”, “Cope” & You will Beat” to dynamic “Great Awakening” to heartfelt “Mourning” this CD has something for just about everyone. I especially like the jam band pieces “Postcard”, “Great Awakening” & “Disguise.” The CD ends with “The End” the perfect finale statement.
This CD is not without a few notable weaknesses. Despite the truly great performances, it’s fair to say there is something odd going on with this production. Zeroing in on the recording, mixing & mastering – I suspect it’s the mixing. It’s pretty all over the place & lacks the ability to grab the listener. From vocals sound disproportionate to the music, to odd sounding harmonies, extreme right & left pans to awkward low end punch & amazing solo guitar that sounds buried – this mix has all the trademarks of a botched & amateurish mix job. Because of this substandard mix - the attention span of the listener is extremely challenged. It clearly doesn’t compare to other mixes within this genera & sounds extremely amateurish & lacks fine luster. If the mix was industry standard this CD would clearly be a 10 on a 10 scale. Mixing will always be the biggest make or break for any production. When done right will leave a lasting impression, when not done right will stick out like a sore thumb. Each phase of the production process (recording, mixing, mastering) should be handled by an experienced professional – especially the mix. It’s safe to say if the any stage is not done properly, the whole production effort will be for not. If this review sounds lopsided it merely reflects the extremes presented on The Great Awakening. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line.
The Great Awakening by Soup is a solid debut statement. Song for song, note for note its has a feel good groove to it. It’s strong suit – the song for song rock solid consistency & amazing vocal presence of lead singer Jonathan Fleig. Like the aforementioned he is a musical triple threat & should be considered a premier talent within this band. Let’s just hope his head doesn’t ever catch up with his talent is any time soon. I would go so far as to say he’s the next Shannon Hoon or Jack White. If The Great Awakening has a slam dunk live presentation then that would make a pretty lethal combination. No doubt they are a lot of fun to check out live. So if you like college alternative rock that dishes out bluesy type ditties reminiscent of Blind Mellon, Counting Crows & Grateful Dead then you should jump into this CD head first.