CD Review - Waiting For Henry "Ghosts & Compromise"
From the scratchy opening intro (intended) and its guitar twang, the band -- Waiting For Henry seems to have been worth waiting for.
But that guitar twang is not representative of every song. There is a diversity in this work: some songs burn, some smolder and some are slow silent fiery embers….
This independent New Jersey band (I assume, being this album was recorded in Bruce Springsteen’s backyard -- Freehold, NJ) features a nice relaxed male vocal on “Buy American,” and is supported by some inspiring background vocals.
But, this first track was just an hors d’oeuvre. The majority of these well-recorded tunes display some creative dominant bass framing –as evident on “Here Comes the Rain.” A great guitar riff that's instant ear-candy and snaps with a driving steady drum beat that gets your body snaking.
My only criticism on this track: the song weaves through with confident lead vocals and backup vocals with some hot guitar playing that comes up through the depths. But, the solo guitar never quite breaks the surface on what I'm listening to. It’s under there somewhere but the mix has it buried too deep. My ears were trying to hear it because it was excellent -- this track has some wonderful leads in it – IF I could only hear it.
“Sicka” follows with crunchy guitars. Up front, in your face like a strong brisk wind. The vocalist is more commanding on this and Waiting For Henry erects a nice wall of head-bopping sound. When the lead guitar is showcased it’s still a little buried in the mix and it’s a shame because there are some tasty creative licks going on in there and it has marvelous tone.
“Incomplete Me,” starts off with another attractive lead guitar intro reminiscent -- in some respects to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone.” The vocals are well recorded and if you listen carefully the lyric is a well-written poignant song. Nice to hear lead rock vocals that aren’t from that tradition of wimpy rock vocalizing that is so prevalent today.
Dave Slomin is firmly planted in these songs – and this track features again -- some tasty guitar interplay. At best, they remind me a little of Blue October just not as dark and dangerous. This song has an exceptional arrangement with equal moments of power and suaveness. The hook “you’re the one, you’re the one, you’re the one…” is excellent. I played this one a few times because it just had that urgency.
“Cayuga Why,” is fuel injected – with the guitars front and center. Their guitar playing and vocals are cleverly layered over each other and the overall sound on this track is potent. Its aggressiveness is not overwhelming but in just the right dosages. The band -- without a doubt -- has power and if they can translate this power to the stage they must be a great performance band.
“L.I.E.” slows the pace and despite some smoking guitars -- they do sound like a more rocking version of Michael Stipe’s R.E.M. which was mentioned earlier by another writer.
But, when I say they “sound like” I don’t mean imitating. These guys are following their own menu and pile on their instruments differently than R.E.M. I would also add, that Waiting for Henry mines a different musical tradition than R.E.M. This band would appeal also to listeners who may have enjoyed early Pearl Jam – there’s a little spice in this recipe, the flavors are stronger.
“Wish You the Moon” starts off with excellent melodic notes and the voice is prowling the deeper regions of grungier places. The addition of the background vocalist adds some milk to the whiskey. The guitars add brilliance and this is by far the signature tune on the album. This now begins to suggest the band has found their own “sound” because they don’t sound like anyone else. The arrangement is rhythmic and delicate – this is a keeper in my repeat play list.
A quiet guitar opens “Riverside” and it’s a pleasure to hear that this band can do it. Just as disciplined on their slower songs as they are in their more ambitious fiery tunes. No big drama here, just a well performed, well-disciplined song.
However, “American Song,” brings back the sparks.
This reminds me of the old Eddie and the Tide band that had two great albums in the 80’s with excellent Eddie Rice vocals in this tradition. They also remind me of another band that had several albums a few decades ago: The Rockets. They had songs like “American Dreams,” and “Desire” which were splendid. This is a style that is sophisticated and provocative. The Michael Stanley Band out of Ohio is still mining this vein decades later with continued success in that part of the country.
This is in that fine tradition – but, again – I must emphasize that Waiting for Henry has a well-shaped identity of their own and they are not mimicking these bands. They just joined their fraternity.
It’s like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Falcon and John Mellancamp – the same – but, different.
The title track – “Ghosts and Compromise” comes with clean acoustic guitars. The WFH style encompasses some good duet singing and it's evident here. The production is pristine. I would just suggest that some of the songs, like this one, would be elevated if there was a little harmonica, or a saxophone added – just something to balance out the wall of guitars that dominate many of the tracks. The guitars are often excellent – but, just the addition of another instrument would add another dimension to an otherwise terrific, well-written, well-performed track.
“Parallel Lanes,” takes a sharp turn into a slower musical lane. Yet, the band proves their worth and musicianship by showcasing some melodic embers instead of fire. Vocals are sincere and lyrical. A nice closer.
So, what do we have here?
Eleven tracks of splendid rock, some with melody, some with muscle and all performed with expertise and just enough weight. I believe Waiting for Henry has a fine set of balanced songs in this collection. Nothing sappy or cliché and most importantly – they never seem to lose momentum or inspiration. They perform well together and conjure great rock spirits.
Though at times they may remind a listener of someone else – that’s really all part of the tradition of the music. We all know there is nothing new under the sun. Jan and Dean sounded like the Beach Boys but then maybe they didn't. Early Dire Straits sounded like Bob Dylan with singing lessons but there was a difference. The Knickerbockers ("Lies") sounded a lot like the Beatles for a moment.
But, this band is disciplined, fresh and you can hear it in their playing. They may take a slice of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a piece of REM, a slab of this and a sliver of that and so long as they come up with a different “face” on what they present – then, hell – they are original.
They mixed the right musical ingredients differently and they made a really engaging meal of melodies.
Isn’t that what music is all about?
Waiting For Henry was worth the wait.
Visit the Waiting For Henry website for more information and song samples: http://waitingforhenry.wordpress.com/
Check out the Artists Talking Shop interview with David Slomin of Waiting For Henry in No Depression:
Waiting For Henry are: Dave Slomin – lead guitar and vocal; Dave Ashdown – drums, guitar and vocal – Michael Chun – bass. Guest musicians include: Andrew Hollander - organ, piano & accordion, Carla Capretto – vocals on "Riverside" & Neil Nunziato - drums on "Buy American".
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review / commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of No Depression.
John Apice – Contributor – No Depression – April 7, 2013