Barrett - The Strolling Minstrel
If You Want To
cover to this album is deceiving - a long haired, wandering
minstrel through the streets of New York, a blood-red filter,
makes us expect to mellow out. But perhaps we should have
paid more attention to the color of that filter, because this
ain't no Paul Simon record. Drew Barrett's roots are firmly
entrenched in the big production, excessive rock of the '70s
and early '80s. His deep and resonant delivery recalls David
Bowie, and some of his music does too, like the glam anthem
"City of Sin" and the spacey semi-acoustic ballad "Visitors
from Saturn's Moon." But he goes further than being just a
Bowie ripoff on this adventurous new disc.
of the most excessive and best tracks is "Soldier Song," which
holds its own with Def Leppard's "Gods of War," Black Sabbath's
"War Pigs" and Guns 'n' Roses' "Civil War" in the category
of loud and powerful heavy metal peace anthems. It may be
easy to laugh at that comparison, but those are pretty high
standards for anyone who aspires to them. And it really does
evoke the same emotion as those classics. The sad tale of
a lover's betrayal "Caught in the Act," in spite of the drum
machine, is just as powerful - when Barrett screams out "Don't
you TRYYYYY to explain / you can just WAAAASH away the pain
/ why should I TRYYYY to escape / when I'm not the one who
is to blame?" you can't help but shed a tear of your own.
Barrett has a sense of humor too. "A Change is on the Way"
sports a countryish attitude and mock (or at least I think
they're mock) lesson-teaching messages like "You can never
find happiness if you don't look inside yourself." "Billy-Bob"
is an unforgettable jab at our country's beloved leader that
urges Mr. Clinton to "show some modesty and dignity" and step
down ("Do we send or do we boot you out?") it's actually tough
to tell how serious this song is, but whether Barrett really
thinks Clinton should leave office because of what he did
or whether he's merely making fun of the whole mess, he deserves
a round of applause for the guts it took to write a song like
Strolling Minstrel isn't all about gimmicks either. There
is some really good genuine songwriting here. "Lovers," a
duet with Corinne Barrett, is that rare romantic ballad you
can listen to and not gag. The arrangement is straight out
of Alice Cooper land - it could be two vampires singing to
each other and still be sincere. And the sprawling "Is There
Somewhere Else We Go" falls somewhere in the progressive but
far from overblown zone. Overall, Drew Barrett has made an
extremely promising debut - as he sings in "City of Sin,"
"it's not for everyone / but everyone is welcome." Turn this
one up to 11, and be prepared both to laugh and cry.
and MP3s, check out his website: