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Get It Wrong Before I Get It Right
Artist: Sam Ashworth
Label: Runway Network
Time: 12 tracks/40:35
Sam Ashworth is Charlie Peacock's equally gifted son. Although it's not all that fair to Ashworth to mention his dad in the first sentence of a review, it's impossible not to make the connection. For the overwhelming first impression of this album is that if Charlie were a guitarist rather than a keyboardist by trade, this is an album he could quite conceivably have made and be proud of.
All the elements of a great pop album are here: singable melodies, "I never would have thought of that!" chord changes, interesting lyrics (although there is no lyric sheet included with the album), well-crafted production, and distinctive vocals. The reason I brought up the comparison to Ashworth's father, Charlie Peacock is because Ashworth's voice is slightly lower in pitch, but otherwise is uncannily similar to Peacock's vocals. The backing musicians are worth noting, too: Matt Slocum, formerly of Sixpence, cowrote a few tracks, handles most of the bass and many of the guitar lines; Scott Dente adds a few guitar licks here and there; Charlie Peacock plays keys on a few tracks; Fleming McWilliams sings a duet on one track; and so on. The sound of the album is very organic, quite unlike the production-heavy sound to much of his father's best-known work. In terms of Peacock albums, this is more West Coast Diaries, Volume 2 than Lie Down In the Grass, as it were.
And yet, Ashworth's music stands up quite apart of any comparisons to his father. One thing that Ashworth does extremly well is write songs. His songs pretty much follow standard chord progressions but have just one or two chords that break the pattern or jump out of the progession. It gives an almost Beatles or PFR lighthearted feel to much of the music--a feel indicated also by the clever packaging. This is guitar-pop at a level which few achieve.
The album, while very impressive, did wear on me a little after repeated listenings. Once the novelty of the tune structures wear off, the songs remain strong but not overwhelmingly so. Yet "If She Needs Me" is exceptional, and deserves to be a huge single on college and adult alternative, if not even adult contemporary, radio. "Look Back," "Children Leap," "Bridget" and "Eleanor" are very good radio possibilities. There are a few other good tracks, such as "Chameleon." But the album as a whole could be just a little bit more diverse. There is a certain sameness to many of the tracks which isn't apparent on first listen but which surfaces after a few spins. Having said that, I haven't heard many better new albums this year.
Yet, if you are a Beatles, Sixpence, or Charlie Peacock fan, this is an album you likely should have in your collection. The good moments far outnumber the bad. Basically, this album is a series of meditations on life and love and getting things wrong--and maybe, every once in a while, getting it right.
Alex Klages 10/26/2005