Dominic Balli American Dream reviewed in Phantom Tollbooth This polished, reggae-spiced CCM is easy on the ear, but harder to get very excited about.

Label: Red Song Music
Time:  12 tracks / 44.12 mins

Selling 20,000 copies of his independent debut and iTunes rating him as one of their top 30 reggae releases of 2008 is a great head-start to Balli’s music career. It is also a lot to live up to.

Balli describes his music as CaliRockReggae and himself as a half-Italian and quarter-Greek Californian (no mention of Jamaica) so the reggae is something he has picked up, but it is a tasty flavour that brings a spice to his music.

It starts well. The title track is one of the collection’s highlights and it dares to contrast the American Dream with the gospel:

    “What about a dream where the Kingdom comes
    Peace on earth and his will be done?
    What about a dream where the people fight
    Not for fortune and fame, but for saving lives?

    She’ll consume your future if you just let her be,
    Hold the world a hostage from sea to shining sea.
    You can call her freedom, but she can’t set you free.
    Don’t you dare disgrace her – she’s our American Dream.”

It ends well too, with “Daisy’s Song,” an acoustic, faux-Marley anthem.

In between, his work is polished and radio-friendly; his voice smooth and rounded, easy to listen to, but able to crank it up when necessary. Half the songs are about love and about half have a distinctly reggaefied backing.

Whereas so much CCM is one indistinguishable blob, this release has its own identity – or has it? I do find myself wondering whether it is coincidence that some tracks sound remarkably like specific other artists, or whether he has targeted a section of the market and aimed his sound squarely at them.

The title track has that smooth DC Talk feel, while “Louder” and “Again and Again” sound extremely reminiscent of Newsboys – the former in its electro backing, and particularly the latter, which could almost be off (one of!) their Greatest Hits packages.

But “Louder” also sounds a bit like Sting, while “See What We Become” is like Sting singing “Message in a Bottle.” Other tracks all have a mish-mash of these influences and sounds, with the odd anthem (“Twenty Seventeen”) upping the adrenalin.

Altogether, a lot of people will love this. It is very nicely assembled, easy on the ear, superb in places, but hard to get very excited about.

Download: American Dream, Again and Again, Daisy's Song.


Derek Walker