(Lonely Hiway Records, digital download)
OK, Vermont musicians. Raise your hand if you’ve released a really good full-length album this year.
Just as I suspected, I’m seeing quite a few hands out there. Good, good. Now, keep your hand raised if you’ve released two really good full-length albums this year.
All right, we’ve got The Vacant Lots and a handful of other folks. Sounds about right. Now, leave ’em up if you’ve released three really good full-length albums this year … Anyone? Bueller?
Oh, wait, you in the back. Yup, there he is, Ben Campbell. Come on up and take a bow, man. Because with The Machine in the Man you have pretty much just lapped the field … again.
The preceding recounts a fictional awards ceremony that occurred in my caffeine-addled head just now. Weird, I know. But to be perfectly honest, I’ve been at a loss to comprehend how one man could be responsible for three of the finest local releases this year alone. I mean, anyone can be prolific. But to release a trio of phenomenal records consisting entirely of new, original material in less than 12 months is just absurd. The only explanation: Ben Campbell — aka Saint Albums — is, in fact, Vermont’s patron saint of albums. (Question: Is it OK to canonize someone if he’s still alive?)
Frankly, Ben, this is getting a little out of hand. I mean, I am running out of ways to tell my readers how good you are. Granted, I didn’t review Oasis of Joy. But that was because I needed those adjectives for my review of your second 2009 effort, Metal Dream. And now this? You just fried Thesaurus.com. I hope you’re happy.
So yeah. What can I say about The Machine? How about this: It is among the most finely conceived and executed recordings I’ve heard this year — and that includes Campbell’s earlier 2009 efforts. And I don’t mean “locally.” I mean period. In other words, not only is he putting out an unfathomable amount of music, he’s getting better. Hey, way to make the rest of us look bad.
Honestly, Ben, you had me at the pitch-perfect harmonies in “I’ll Never Know My Love.” But then you had to rock my world with the cheeky, melodic twists in “Bayside Shuffle.” As if that weren’t enough, on “We Are Burning” you had to prove my theory that Auto-Tune can actually be an effective — and tasteful — production tool. I won’t even mention how much I dig the compositions on “The Whispering Wind” and “Made of the Mountain.” It’s not fair, Ben. It’s just not fair.
The Machine in the Man and Saint Albums’ two other 2009 releases are available for free download at www.lonelyhiway.com. While you’re there, you might as well pick up the other five albums Campbell has put out since 2007. They’re probably obnoxiously good, too.