Up until about a month ago there was only one album that I'd ever heard (in my entire life) where I loved every song on it the first time I heard it. Well, lightning DID strike twice. There are now two albums that hold that distinction. Steve Cole's new CD, Spin now stands alongside of Dave Koz's Off The Beaten Path.
Spin is Steve's fourth solo CD (the first on Narada Jazz) and a major departure from his previous releases. In fact, it's a major departure from the Smooth Jazz status quo. And in a sea of current “songbook” releases, Spin is truly a much needed breath of fresh air.
Steve took up the guitar for this CD. He did so in order to achieve the acoustic guitar-driven singer/songwriter style of John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Five for Fighting, Maroon5 and Gavin DeGraw. But with these tracks the sax handles the lead vocals. His main instrument is still the sax, but Cole adds his new guitar skills to Spin as well.
Opening the CD is the first single from Spin – “Thursday.” No one can write better hooks than Steve Cole and nowhere is that more evident than in this upbeat track. The guitar-driven, vocally oriented “The Real Me” is the first song Steve wrote on the guitar. “Simple Things” falls somewhere between soft Country Rock and Blues. It's a great soulful ballad, and the tenor sax really sings this one! Cole gives us another great hook in the upbeat, playful, acoustic rock title track.
The album shifts gears with the tender, reflective “A Letter To Laura” – a love song written to Cole's wife. “Now That You're Here” is another great acoustic guitar-driven track flavored with a little Hammond B3 organ courtesy of Ricky Peterson. Cole gives us another great hook in the chorus.
As if Spin isn't unique enough already, Steve introduces us to Acoustic Chill with “Serenity.” Soprano saxes, acoustic guitars, percussion and a variety of organic sounds are interwoven into this track that will take you on a wonderful sonic journey. And following that is some very funky, soulful Southern Rock. “I Was Alright” is definitely going to move you! Yet another great hook, “The Things I Do” has a fantastic guitar intro, a gentle, soulful verse and a kickin' chorus. Coming off the bridge is going to blow you away!
Closing out the album is the very funky (B3 in all its glory), aggressive, highly charge “Confounded.” This is another one that will knock your socks off coming off the bridge. “Confounded” morphs into some very funky stuff where Cole lays down some serious jazz riffs! And if you hang in there for a few seconds you'll be treated to a little more Acoustic Chill on the bonus track which features some great bass and percussion!
All songs were written and produced by Steve Cole and Dave Hiltebrand, and backing Steve up on the CD are Hiltebrand on bass, piano and guitar; Tim Pierce on guitar; Michael Thompson on guitar; Ricky Peterson on Hammond B3; Todd Sucherman on drums, and Lenny Castro on percussion.
Spin is a great CD to use as an introduction to contemporary instrumental music for the younger set. I can't recommend it any more highly than I did in that first paragraph! For a girl who plays acoustic guitar, who's favorite instrument is the sax, and whose true musical loves are acoustic rock and contemporary instrumental… heaven does reach down and touch the earth from time to time!
- Elizabeth Ware