As we have mentioned several times on this blog, having access to Canadian stations on satellite radio has been instrumental in bringing hordes of new artists to our attention. One of the most recent tracks heard was “Daylight” by ‘newcomer’ Adam Baldwin – the name was unknown to us, but we later learned he has honed his craft as part of Matt Mays’ touring band. We recently found a copy of the “No Telling When” CD by Adam Baldwin, and after just a couple of spins, knew that we were keen to promote this wonderful release.
Playing the album for the first time, I must confess to being left with the impression that somehow the wrong disc had been inserted into the sleeve. Surely Adam Baldwin was a rock singer, but the opening track “No Telling When (Precisely Nineteen Eighty-Five)” was replaced by the smooth jazz sounds of saxophone and piano. Just as I was about to eject the disc to seek confirmation of the mistake, the jazz was quickly replaced by drums and guitars, and fears of having the wrong album quickly disappeared. Nice work Adam, you sure had me scrambling with that little curveball of an introduction.
It was the moment during this opening track when Adam would sing his first few lines, and leave me thinking “he sounds just like Jon Bon Jovi.” The similarities are there, not just with the vocals, but the rhythm too. However, any similarities are set aside when focusing on the lyrics, which are certainly much more meaningful and substantive than the offerings from commercial rock music. This opening track, in particular, offers very strong hints of a feeling of unease regarding the political climate south of Canada over the last couple of years. The political theme resurfaces during “Daylight,” where the Bon Jovi sound leans a little more towards 1980s Journey, but the same dark political content surrounding bigotry and oppression form the root of the song.
I must point out that the political slant on these two tracks does not represent the tone of the remaining tracks on this album. There is an old fashioned rock n roll vibe, a mixture of eighties synthesizer and pop-rock. “Love on the Rocks” is certainly reminiscent of one of those eighties “Brat Pack” movie soundtracks; a theme that I have raised previously when reviewing the Wildlife album, “Age of Everything.” So was I surprised by the similarity between Baldwin’s “Leaving on a whim” and Wildlife’s track “2017”? No, not at all! Both songs ooze that strong eighties synthesizer influence, yet are both crisp, modern, and not at all out of place on their respective albums.
The tracks “Anytime” and “Sparrow Song” see Adam being joined on vocals by Leah Fay, better known for her work with July Talk. Both songs continue with the modern, radio-friendly Canadian folk-pop theme, although the synthesizer sound resurfaces in “Sparrow Song,” giving this a retro sound that harmonizes perfectly with Leah’s backing vocals, whilst providing the perfect counter punch to the darker social conscientiousness from “No Telling When” and “Daylight.”
For me, one highlight on this album has to be the closing track, “Living Proof.” With the opening piano and pedal steel (a musician never fails to get my attention with some pedal steel), this song delivers the daunting tale of finding true love and purpose amidst all of those hopes and fears that constantly feed into our psyche. Baldwin takes us on a journey with perfectly crafted lyrics that play on self-discovery and blind faith (“we’re going west to the oil sand, pack your bag baby for the promised land”), then later self-reflection and the harsh realities of life (“could you send his daughter my regards, cause I’m flying home with a broken heart”). Pure poetry, yet delivered in a sentimental rock n roll package that provides a wonderful close to the album.
This full album release (Adam did previously release a self-titled EP in 2013) is a very welcome addition to our music collection, and based on the quality of these nine tracks, we eagerly await the opportunity to discover more of his music in the future. In the meantime, I am now inspired to go revisit some of those old Matt Mays albums….ah, the life of a music blogger!