I am obsessed with this album. I am so obsessed that I have deleted at least ten starts to what will eventually become a review, mostly because Edmund & Leo is so much more than I expected, even after fully absorbing Dunn's last outstanding release, The Neglected Gambit. It is so much more, in fact, that I want to send a copy to every writer in existence just to share the music. I want to put together a band and an elaborate international tour complete with full fifty or hundred voice choir so people could hear Dunn in a setting worthy of this album. I want to swamp radio, Internet and otherwise with reviews, and put together fully professional videos for music video freaks. Unfortunately, that takes money and money is in short supply around the old homestead these days. But if I had it, I would. Swear to God.
Why? Because when the music is this good, you want to do something. Back in the old days you could tuck an album under your arm and head to a friend's house to trade turns on the turntable. You could tell people about music and, amazingly, some of those people would listen. You could give albums as gifts and sometimes they were accepted gracefully and maybe even eventually coveted as much by the person to whom you gave it as by yourself. I miss those days when I hear albums like this because I know that many of my old friends would listen and at least try to hear a semblance of what I hear. What do I hear? A lot.
If I didn't know better, I would think Edmund & Leo (the song) an intro to the album as a whole, but Dunn denies it. She pointed out not long ago that it was different than the rest of the album and I get that, but only to a degree. It does have that intro feel to it but by the time you get to the closing track, Meteor Shower, I get the feeling that Edmund is an intro to Meteor Shower's outro, of sorts. Bookends to the whole work, as it were.
Packed between those two songs are ten stunners (which makes twelve total, just in case math is not your strong suit). Ten beauties, ranging from the very folk rockin' Change the Record (with twelve-string riffs to bring the sixties back from the dead) to the song with an absolute killer chorus (Buffoon Man--- I tell you, it sends shivers up my spine) to the just short of Broadway Tuxedo Cat to the Beach Boys-y Everything to that outro capper, Meteor Shower, a real show-ender if ever there was one.
Dunn has outdone even the output of The Neglected Gambit, which was an album of which anyone would be proud. Song after song, the album builds and builds until the curtain drops (in my head, with the band still playing and the music going on and on and the crowd digging every beat and off-beat as the energy dies for lack of fuel). There are equal parts rockin' live band, orchestra, and session band in the mix and maybe a little Ziegfeld Follies kick here and there, as well.
But this is what separates Edmund & Leo from the pack: production and/or arrangement. This album is so well put together it takes my breath away. Every song, every movement and every damn note is right where it needs to be to put this over the top. The sequencing of songs alone freaks me out and when you get into how they stacked the voices and the instruments--- man, it just doesn't get any better! I have no idea how many hours Dunn and co-producer/magic man/sideman Peter Hackett put into this, but it must have been hundreds. The voices, all Dunn's, are used to magnify the music--- in duets and trios and quartets and choruses and almost choirs. They are everything from the full-on angelic choir to the doop-doops and oo-wahs and last for a whole chorus or only one note. Hackett, who plays every instrument except drums (handled very ably by Damon Roots), is masterful in his simplicity, though at times pushing the guitar and amp to wuthering heights.
If I was teaching a class on arranging or producing, I would use this album as an example. Every time I hear it, and I've heard it over a hundred times thus far, I hear something new. Something not necessarily buried but just deep enough in the mix to add to yet not distract from the song. Voices. Instruments. Sounds. I remember talking with Max Wisely and Bill Phillips of Cargoe about the making of their self-titled album for Ardent Records back in the day. I laughed as they told stories of snapping belts and coke bottles and ping pong balls. The good artists and producers do whatever it takes to get the sound they need. That's what Hackett and Dunn have done here. No stone unturned.
Yes, I am obsessed with this album. This is good stuff. Amazingly good. Good enough to be guaranteed a Top Ten slot in my end of the year list. (and it was they year it was released--- 2013) No, I don't need to wait. I can hear it. Click here. Listen closely. It may take you a few times, but you will hear it too. When you get it, buy it. Play it for your friends. Put a leash on it and take it for walks, I don't care. Hopefully it will be an antidote to always looking backward to the music you've already heard way too much but just can't seem to shake. This is an album which could be the first album of the rest of your life.
(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)