John Shaffer – Change / 8 Songs / 2004 Self-Released / http://www.johnshaffermusic.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / Reviewed 24 May 2004
Firmly planting its roots in the Sting/Peter Gabriel/Michael Bolton sphere of things, John Shaffer has made a disc that works extraordinarily well as a background disc. The instrumentation on “Change” might be incredibly rich, but everything is produced with the same laid-back tempo that doesn’t lend itself well to exciting and inflaming the spirit. Meshing electronics perfectly with tribal instruments, such as in the beginning to “In My Space”, John shows a knack for conciliation of two very different sets of noises, tying two completely different lines of sound together into an intense, interesting mix. However, the lack of vocals at points during the CD, such as in the aforementioned “In My Space”, really allows the lumbering mass that is eir’s music to grow stale much more quickly than it would with a set of lyrics flowing over what should be a backbeat. Even when John takes a deeper edge to things, as in “My Eyes So Green”, the fact is that the tinkling pianos and off-the-assembly lines smack of early nineties dance music than anything new or visionary. John’s Bono-at-seventy vocals during “My Eyes So Green” may provide a nice contrast to the industrial tone of the track, but perhaps if a smoother delivery was given on the track, maybe the track itself wouldn’t seem so ragged.
The instrumental “Eyes So Green (Reprise)” is the other side of the coin from “In M y Space”, where the piano lines laid down remind individuals of some of the best independent-rock created lines, such as those that typically adorn Tori Amos or Leonard Cohen songs. “Easy For Everyone” is the standout track on the disc, if not only for the fact that it simultaneously conjures the spirits of Warren Zevon and Billy Joel into one simplistic track, led on to glory by John’s voice and the accompanying piano lines. Even is John is trying to exploit the “World Music” market with eir’s “Exit Plan”, the repetitive sampling and shrill guest voices do nothing to try to make this track palatable it the least.
Overall, for a relatively pop-themed album, “Change” is near the top of the class. However, the truly satisfying material only comes to light every few songs, and even then, it is really his and miss. “Change” is an album that is great at meshing together the organic and synthetic, with minor gaffes in this incorporation coming out only a few times on the disc.
Top Track: “Eyes So Green (Reprise)”