Josh Rouse

1972 (Rykodisc 03) Rating: A-
This "throwback" album is aptly named, conjuring as it does the warmly inviting mainstream (remember, that wasn't a dirty word back then) sounds of the likes of Bill Withers, Al Green, and Paul Simon. The beautifully airy, sumptuously singable title track begins this instantly likeable album on a high note, and the consistent quality continues on the cheesy but irresistible "Love Vibration," on which jaunty horns and flute flesh out a simple yet groovy melody. The short "Sunshine (Come On Lady)" is pleasantly melodic but not as memorable, while the low-key, slightly funky soul groove of "James" is subtly enticing, aided by Rouse's effortless falsetto, a headbobbin' bass thrust, and some silky flute interjections. The lighthearted piano pop of "Slaveship" is almost certainly the album's most flat-out fun song, as well as its catchiest along with "Love Vibration," while the light funk returns on "Come Back (Light Therapy)," another seemingly effortlessly enjoyable early '70s should've been hit. Of course, it sounds great in 2003, too, as expertly crafted, gimmick-free music such as this tends to transcend the time during which it was recorded. Perhaps the end of the album loses a little steam after such an excellent beginning, but the quality doesn't dip too much, as certainly the beautifully comforting "Under Your Charms" and the gorgeously spiritual, gospel-influenced "Sparrows Over Birmingham" (featuring guest vocals from James Nixon) are first-class ballads. "Flight Attendant" and "Rise" are slightly less impressive to me, but both have their moments (such as when the former unexpectedly transforms itself into a waltz-like melody towards the end) and work well within the context of the album. A lack of originality and an "easy listening" lack of excitement are this albums only drawbacks, and I suppose it is this album's easy going nature and "familiar" sound that prevented it from getting the rave reviews it should have received, critics in general seeming to value originality above strong songwriting. Still, that doesn't have to stop me from praising 1972, Rouse's fourth and most accessible (it's certainly his most polished and upbeat) album to date, as it easily places him among the front rank of current straightforward singer-songwriters such as Freedy Johnston and Lucinda Williams.

send me an email

Back To Artist Index Home Page