Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Country, Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
Dan wilson of critically acclaimed and platinum selling band semisonic releases his debut album as a solo artist which includes contributions from sheryl crow, gary louris (the jayhawks), benmont tench (heartbreakers), eri... more »
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Dan wilson of critically acclaimed and platinum selling band semisonic releases his debut album as a solo artist which includes contributions from sheryl crow, gary louris (the jayhawks), benmont tench (heartbreakers), eric fawcett (n.e.r.d.) and rick rubin as executive producer. This solo phase includes songwriting collaborations with dixie chicks, mike doughty, jewel, jason mraz, rachel yamagata and others. Dan wilson co-wrote six songs on the dixie chicks album 'taking the long way home'. This earned him a grammy for the song 'not ready to make nice' and the album won a total of 5 grammy awards including 'album of the year' and 'country album of the year'.
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Semisonic fans, rejoice
David R. Gaines | Rockville, MD, USA | 10/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's no "Closing Time" on this album (although the simple right hand piano ostinato in "Against History" is a bit reminiscent of that song), but anyone who enjoys the wistful, expressive, introspective side of Dan Wilson's band Semisonic will have no trouble latching onto "Free Life." Rick Rubin, the executive producer, introduces the album in the liner notes and one of the things he says is spot on: you should listen to this album when you have a spare moment and total silence. "Free Life" merits more than a noisy subway ride with your iPod's tinny earbuds.
Dan's voice is fragile and transparent -- which makes it unsuitable for some of the odd leaps and twists & turns to which his unusual melodic lines subject it -- but that adds to the integrity and sincerity of his songwriting, IMHO. No mass vocal harmonizing and triple-tracking here; the production is sparse and delicate throughout.
Also, I applaud Dan Wilson because his songs (both solo and Semisonic) ACTUALLY HAVE ENDINGS. Wow. Think about it.....most pop & rock songs fade out at the end, which is, frankly a big cop-out. Dan's songs tell their stories and then reach a definite conclusion. This is so pervasive with his recordings (the Semisonic songs "Bed" & "Secret Smile" are the only ones I can think of that fade out) that it must be deliberate. Good decision, Dan.
What's out there to which I can compare "Free Life?" I hear some James Blunt (surprisingly) and Dar Williams (not so surprisingly) in here, as well as folks like Paul Simon and Cat Stevens, a little Nick Drake, plus any number of introspective singer/songwriters as well as The Beatles (of course). If you enjoy any of the above you'll find a lot to enjoy on "Free Life."
My only serious criticism about the album is the peculiar track ordering. The album opens, strangely, with a very moody, down tempo song ("All Kinds"). I actually thought my CD player was accidentally set to random when I first listened to this disc. IMHO a much better choice for the album opener would have been "Against History," a dramatic toe-tapper featuring the catchy piano riff I mentioned earlier. I would have chosen this as the single, too, instead of "Cry." Set your device to play this album with "Against History" first, then "Cry", then the album as it's laid out on the disc, and see if you don't agree. To my ears, "All Kinds" is much more appealing as a slow palate-cleanser to follow AH & Cry. Just the aural opinion of one musician and his ears.
Finally, if you were directed to this album because you're a Semisonic fanatic, you'll be very pleased that both John Munson and Jacob Slichter appear - Slichter in a triple role as drummer, keyboardist, and string arranger, as he did with Semisonic. A nice understated reunion of sorts, and very reminiscent of some of my favorite Semisonic songs such as "In Another Life," "DND," "Gone To The Movies," and "Follow." If you like those tracks you'll find a lot to enjoy inside of "Free Life."
And if you don't know anything at all about Semisonic but already enjoy "Free Life," you have a lot of exploring to do. Enjoy.
NOTE: the edition of this album that I bought (from a small independent chain via their website) came with a very attractive large-format lyric booklet that was separate from the CD itself. Since the CD's liner notes already come with all of the lyrics, I'm not sure why the record label decided to do this, but it's a nice collectible. Since DW signed it, it was probably a limited edition of some kind."
A simple masterpiece
M. McAbee | Atlanta, GA | 11/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The new album by Minneapolis singer/songwriter Dan Wilson called Free Life is a must hear. The former Semisonic frontman has published a solo debut album that should inspire his fans in addition to those who might say "who is Dan Wilson?"
For about eight years I've been a fan of Semisonic. I became aware of them right around the time that they were nearing the end of their proverbial 15 minutes of fame. The first Semisonic album I actually bought was All About Chemistry, which ultimately proved to be their last. That album, released in 2000 or 2001 I think, is NOT the album that has the well known song (the one you might mention when someone says "who's Semisonic?") Closing Time. Anyway, I loved it immediatley and over the years I've purchased all of their albums and a few singles that wound up on various soundtracks.
As time went by, it became clear that another Semisonic album wouldn't be forthcoming. I was a little dissapointed but great art need not be produced in multiple volumes to be appreciated.
Then I started reading some buzz about Dan Wilson making a solo record. Since he was (I assume) the primary creative element of the band I was excited to see what he might produce. It has been several years in the making but finally, Free Life has arrived.
I had heard about a quarter of the tracks on this album via Dan Wilson's myspace page, many months before it was released (Cry, Baby Doll, and Breathless). Based on the quality of those songs and the recognition Wilson recieved when he won a grammy for co-writting several tracks on the Dixie Chicks album "Not Ready to Make Nice", I was sure that when it finally was released, Free Life would not dissappoint.
I had no idea. I may be a biased fan but this album is fantastic.
Many songs on Free Life can be classified as ballads or love songs. The love in question is both love disired and love lost. "Breathless" seems to be about a lover that the singer knows is too hard to hold but that realization doesn't diminish his desire or his emptyness when his lover isn't around.
"Baby Doll" begins with a simple guitar and whimsical piano bells and moves into a strong bass line. The singer sings to the object of his affection that he only wants to love his baby doll. Wilson's near falsetto manage to make the use of that lover's cliche seem legitimate rather than silly.
The careful choice of words and mixture of music on this album accomplish wonderful poetry without being too obvious. "Come Home Angel" would seem to be a song about the biblical legend, The Rapture, but the song never sounds preachy. "Cry" begins with a funereal tolling bell in minor keys but what comes through is a plea for love and a commitment to always be there no matter what.
The final track is "Easy Silence" , which is a song Dixie Chicks fans will instantly recognise from their last album Not Ready to Make Nice. Wilson co-wrote this song and decided to re-work it. In a way, he covered his own song. The song is filled with sounds that are usually associated with country music: Church organs, mournfull guitar chords, and a seemingly lone violin, er, fiddle. But in making it his own, as it should be, he removes the cloud of political statement that surrounds the Chicks and the purity of the words comes through.
An album review shouldn't be a description of the album's contents so I'll stop with my favorite, "Sugar." I love it. Listening to it you can imagine the singer in a small, intimate music venue chatting and laughing with the audience. The song is simple and sweet (pardon the pun). Sugar is a song about someone in love with someone who doesn't seem to be interested. Undaunted Wilson's pleading voice simply asks "please let me know when you're gonna be mine."
This album was produced by Rick Rubin, who's hallmark in the last decade-and-a-half would seem to be less is more. He seems to be adept at knowing when to fiddle and when to just let the musician play and the singer sing. Part of what makes Free Life so good is that it doesn't seem over polished or overblown. It isn't bare bones by any means but it is simple enough to allow the emotion come through in Wilson's voice. The abscence of gratuitous instrumentation also allows the listener to truely hear each individual chord being played in near perfect clarity.
The result of Rubin's wisdom and Wilson's talent as a writer, singer, and musician have combined to produce a beautiful, haunting, and inspiring work of art. Whether it will get the recognition it deserves I can't say but if you listen to it you will no doubt enjoy all that Free Life has to offer."
Peter Moreland | UK | 10/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dan's post Semisonic full blown solo album is excellent. It is a big album in more ways than one. Firstly Dan has treated us to a full 55.4 minutes of his music, running across 13 tracks, not short changing the punter here like some artists seem to!
The best way I can describe `Free Life' and differentiate it from earlier `Semisonic' offerings is the following:
Musically it is more laid back than previous ensemble offerings however lyrically the emotional content is far more potent. Dan has always written beautifully moving songs and here he excels himself. Some may not like this album immediately but fear not some tracks are definitely growers!
If by some chance you should read this Dan, you have created a brilliant album and I will certainly be looking for your next release. But you know three albums weren't enough to tell the story of Semisonic, we need another ensemble release as well. You clearly have enough creativity to do both, get on with it :-)"