(Ginger Ingenious Records, CD)
That Big Apple-based singer-songwriter Ben Patton would choose a life in music seems like a foregone conclusion. The son of Vermont Gypsy-jazz maestro Will Patton, he's likely got performing in his blood. But like all children of established artists, he had to find his own voice. Patton's latest, Because the Heart, shows that he's done so and admirably.
Patton is one of a growing group of young musicians obsessed with crafting the perfect pop tune. Taking his cues from the childishly romantic Brian Wilson, Patton serves up songs that reflect the openhearted longing of the mythological American adolescent.
Each of the album's 13 songs is exquisitely produced, with crackling drums, burnished guitars, and clear-as-a-bell vocals. Patton's songwriting shows remarkable dimension, even within the somewhat narrow confines of pop rock.
Opener "All Grown Up" is a confectionary combination of They Might Be Giants-style arrangement and Beach Boys sentiment. Like an updated version of Pet Sounds chestnut "Caroline No," the song mourns an ex-lover's loss of innocence. Some of it is over the top, but it's cool to hear him name-check Burlington.
Patton gets his mellow on with "Any Other Girl," a sweet acoustic number ornamented with strings and classic two-part harmony. The embellishments are swoon-worthy, but Patton's adenoidal vocals might be an acquired taste.
As a composer/arranger, he's got creativity to spare. "Somebody's in Love with You" features mouth percussion, doo-wop backing vocals, harmonized guitar and trumpet all snuggled in a vibrant cut that demonstrates Patton's grasp of pop history.
Things get more rockin' with "Great Expectations," which opens with a blitz of overdriven electric guitar, then settles into a neat and trim waltz. "How badly do you want it? / Would you bet your future on it?" Patton sings. "Keep it simple, keep it genuine / But don't ever keep it in." A personal mantra, perhaps?
The CD was mixed and mastered at West Street Digital in Fairfield, which allowed Patton to employ the musical services of owner Andre Maquera and his wife, Wendy. The former adds slick lead guitar to a couple of cuts; the latter provides lovely background vocals.
"When Larry's in Love" is my favorite tune on the disc. With its Beatles-esque bounce and Queen-style licks, the track perfectly embodies Patton's tender yet cheeky disposition. "Hey Jude, snap it out of it dude / I miss your single attitude / It's me Ben, I'm your best friend / Say you'll never fall in love again," he sings to a romantically distracted pal.
Patton will offer a Christmas gift to area fans with a set at Burlington's Radio Bean on Saturday, December 23. Bring your own mistletoe.