Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Dominic Linde
Being an academic, obviously I do my research if I listen to a group I never heard of. The Essex Green is a pop group from Brooklyn that released three albums between 1999 and 2006. This is their first. Reviews claim they sound like a mix of the Zombies, The Mamas and the Papas (if only because of the girl) and a little Turtles. Hard to argue with that assessment. There is a strong 60’s vibe, but of the innocent kind: more Marmalade/The Association, than VU or the Doors. It’s as Summer of love as you can get without acid or psychedelics, because they are way too innocent for that.
However, the song writing is quite good. “Primrose” really could have been a Zombies song, and is a nice way to start the album. The acoustic guitar, the drum rolls and the oohlala’s add a nice touch. The singer sometimes sounds a little hesitant, though. The ending is classic 60’s: we did not compose a real ending so let’s elaborate on the theme a little more!
Another song, “Saturday”, is much more folky, melody-wise, and because of the flute and the speeding up parts. Also, the second half is purely instrumental.
Production is not quite up to standard sometimes. For instance, in “The Playground” the electric guitar sounds quite bad. In “Big Green Tree”, the singer needed a little more practice; the song is nice, but seems a bit more complex than he can handle. His singing is too monotonous, and detracts from the nice atmosphere they have going. Also, the sections seen stitched together rather haphazardly.
“Tinker” is the long and heavy song. Nice, as if The Turtles front Jefferson Airplane in places. However, the female singer is not really equipped for this type of song, I feel. Also the song is too long: the organ player is no Ray Manzarek. The instrumental middle is not played badly, but it’s less adventurous than a jam band’s solution and as a composition it doesn’t really go anywhere, apart from a little acoustic coda.
The title song is back to acoustic strumming again, and they feel more comfortable here. Again, the male singer is a bit of a let-down, and again it’s partly due to the muffled recording, as if he was singing behind a curtain, in a cardboard box, having the flu. One could argue that this is done on purpose to give the album a bit of an indie feel and surf that 80’s vibe (but on the whole I do not think that it’s eclecticism in this way that they’re going for, so I’ll give them the disadvantage of the doubt).
The song “Sixties” can only start with a sitar of course. It’s a nice uplifting song, really, although the percussion sounds a little silly (cardboard box plus tambourine?). Apart from the organ part, “Sun” is almost a Smile reject: weird in an interesting and musical way. Similarly, “Carballo” is a nice song to end the album. A little Spanish guitar and harmonica suggest what I propose to call an urgent type of resignation.
In the end I wanted to like this album a little more than I could. I think they need better production, and the male singer may need a few singing lessons (or a replacement, but that’s a little harsh as he (co-)composes most of the songs probably). Based on this nice debut record, if you like happy 60’s pop, I suggest you try their second and third albums, The Long Goodbye and Cannibal Sea. I know I will, and I will not be surprised if I like them a lot!