Stories of a Stranger is arguably the first real O.A.R. album. While their sound is unmistakable, it now pulls of a contradictory feat by opening itself to a broader range of influences through songs more tightly focused t... more »han any they've done previously. By far it takes the listener closer than any other album to the matchless experience of hearing O.A.R. live-with the audio tweaked to position the listener in a center seat, a few rows back from the stage. All the ingredients are in place: the in-the-pocket lock-up of bassist Benj Gershman and drummer Chris Culos, the soulful slash and simmer of Jerry DiPizzo's sax, guitar parts from Richard On that stretch from steamy rhythm licks to souring, tuneful leads.« less
Stories of a Stranger is arguably the first real O.A.R. album. While their sound is unmistakable, it now pulls of a contradictory feat by opening itself to a broader range of influences through songs more tightly focused than any they've done previously. By far it takes the listener closer than any other album to the matchless experience of hearing O.A.R. live-with the audio tweaked to position the listener in a center seat, a few rows back from the stage. All the ingredients are in place: the in-the-pocket lock-up of bassist Benj Gershman and drummer Chris Culos, the soulful slash and simmer of Jerry DiPizzo's sax, guitar parts from Richard On that stretch from steamy rhythm licks to souring, tuneful leads.
K. Sullivan | Virginia - United States | 08/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I imagine a number of O.A.R. fans who have given scathing reviews of "Stories of a Stranger" would repent of their comments given opportunity. I admit that I too was a little "shocked" by this album upon first listen. It is different, particularly the first couple tracks. But after several listens, I think "Stories" ranks as one of O.A.R.'s better albums.
The production value on this album is first rate. Some "purists" will consider this a problem because it is certainly a departure from O.A.R.'s earliest output. I personally enjoy a well polished recording and appreciate a fuller lush sound as a good thing - not the only thing, but a good thing nonetheless. Whether you like the material or not, and whether it is representative of what we appreciate about the band or not, it "sounds" good. The one problem with the new production value for O.A.R.'s albums is that it will make it harder for new fans to appreciate their older stuff.
Though doubtless they will not be, the first couple tracks could be pop standards. I think this is why most long time fans bash the record. I am unsure why pop appeal is necessarily evil. I find the tracks to be quite catchy after allowing yourself to get accustomed to a new sound. They aren't "Poker"... but they don't have to be. The third track, "Wonderful Day", was featured on 34th & 8th and is classic O.A.R. The fourth and seventh tracks, "The Stranger" and "Nasim Joon", are just okay and are probably tracks many long time fans will not quickly warm to. Tracks eight and nine, "Tragedy in Waiting" and "Daylight the Dog", are more upbeat or up tempo songs, but they are nothing remarkable. Track eleven, "Dakota", is more reflective and mellow. If this is to your taste, it's a quality song.
For my money, tracks five, six, ten, and twelve (in addition to tracks one through three) make this album worthwhile. They remind me of classic O.A.R. They are captivating. You will jam to "Lay Down" and "Program Director", and settle into a groove with "One Shot" and "52-50". As far as I'm concerned, my O.A.R. collection would not be complete without them.
This is not top to bottom a greatest hits collection. Of course, favorites will vary according to taste. But do not be quick to accuse the band of drastic change or "selling out". By and large, this is a great recording. It is very representative of who and what the band is and has been. And, for me, that's a band that produces fun, groove-filled music with lyrics that are frequently contemplative or meaningful. I for one like it... a lot."
Not like the "old" O.A.R., but not bad either
Q. Jeanette | Ohio | 02/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If I had never listened to O.A.R. before this CD I probably would have given this CD 5 stars rather than 4. The CD hasn't left my player for weeks and has a really great mix of different songs and styles. However, they do seem to have less "energy" on this CD versus their previous releases and not all of the songs have that funky O.A.R. sound. Still, a solid CD to add to your collection - don't buy into the hype that O.A.R has sold out - think of it as a maturing process!"
Great album from a great band
Ralph Wiggum | Omaha, NE | 10/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a longtime fan, I understand some of the complaints with this album, but if you take it for what it is on its own and try not to compare it to their other albums, it is a great album. The AC/DC reference in an earlier review had it right on. O.A.R. is not a popular enough band to stick to the "Risen" sound (my favorite album by the way) over and over for every single album and expect to maintain longevity in the music business. You have to change it up, progress, and unfortunately for some older fans, take on a more polished sound, which is what they do on this album. If you can't ever see that, take solace in that their live shows only get better with time, even if their new CD's have more radio friendly songs. A lot of bands do this, 311 is one that comes to mind. I would rather have polished poppier cd's from my favorite band than nothing at all because they break up if they can't increase their fan base by sticking to the exact same sound. 1) Heard the World 4/5 Sounds almost like a Matchbox 20 song. Very slick sounding though, would have been a good first single to get wide airplay. 2) Love and Memories 3/5 Not the best song, I was shocked when I heard it the first time, the opening sounds nothing like any other O.A.R. song from the past. Fairly catchy chorus. 3) Wonderful Day 5/5 Sounds better in this version than the live version, which is rare for O.A.R. Kind of a poppy song, very easy to listen to, very catchy. Sounds like older O.A.R. 4) Stranger 3/5 Not a very exciting song, weird accompanying vocals. Great sax work though at the end. 5) Lay Down 5/5 Great song. Easy to listen to. Reggae edge to it. Very catchy. 6) Program Director 5/5 Another great song. Also has a reggae/ska edge. 7) Nasim Joon 5/5 This is a slow ballady type number. Great sounding song. I tend to like the faster O.A.R. songs, but this is a very tight song, well produced. 8) Tragedy in Waiting 3/5 An OK song. 9) Daylight the Dog 3/5 This REALLY doesn't sound like classic O.A.R. Almost sounds like an 80's song. It is catchy though 10) One Shot 5/5 This song is kind of cheesy, but I think it sounds great, is easily digestible, and fun. Sounds like a ska song with hints of reggae. 11) Dakota 4/5 Another slower song, but down really well. Easy to listen to. 12) 52-50 5/5 Very powerful song, great solos, a great ending song to a great album "
Up a creek? How about an O.A.R.?
Anthony Rupert | Milwaukee, WI | 09/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ah, yes, another bad pun. Anyway, although the guys in O.A.R. garnered enough interest through time to move from independent work to a major label, they still may not be the most recognizable band in regards to obscurity. But that doesn't really matter because they still show their skills on Stories of a Stranger.
This is another one of those situations where I looked at the one-star reviews and now I'm wondering if those are the kind of reviewers that think one star and five stars are the only options. There are plenty of good songs on here, but my favorites are the first three: "Heard the World", "Love and Memories" and "Wonderful Day". But "One Shot" and "The Stranger" are also pretty listenable.
"Program Director" and "Lay Down" are pretty okay (as is the obligatory end-of-album way-too-long-song "52-50"), but everything else is fine. Maybe it doesn't sound quite like old O.A.R., but you still shouldn't mind sitting through some stories of a stranger.