REVIEWS FOR ANDREW APPLETREE 

Dragonfly is the 2012 release of Andrew Appletree and the Neptune Riders, and it’s a good one, without doubt.  Appletree’s gritty, whiskey-soaked vocals are reminiscent of George Thorogood and the Destroyers and the album itself is full of blues rock guitar chords and catchy rhythms.  Classic rock with a dash of folk, a pinch of punk, and some roots rock is how to best describe Dragonfly, but whatever you want to call it, there is no denying that it simply rocks.

 The album opens with “Carpe Diem,” and it has a contagious beat that will have fans tapping their feet and dancing along.  Appletree’s vocals sound like Bob Dylan on steroids combined with Thorogoood, and the overall effect is one of a honky tonk bluesy sort of vibe that will endear itself to listeners from the opening notes.  Other notable tracks that follow in this vein are “Devils Wife” and “Shining For Me,” both of which carry a bluesy edge coupled with roots rock that melds into a unique blend of classic rock that only Appletree can attain.

 Many of the songs on Dragonfly have an element of the blues to them, but several standout pieces like “Kentucky Blue” and “Plastic Signs (Part 1)” are based mostly in the blues with traces of folk rock thrown in to give it more flavor.  Appletree’s vocals remain constant throughout, and although he occasionally ventures out of key, his delivery is strong and his gravelly voice lends itself well to the overall rustic vibe of the album. 

 Bob Dylan and Tom Petty come to mind during the title track, “Dragonfly,” especially with regards to the vocal delivery and the guitar work.  Listening to this offering, one is intrigued at the thought of seeing this band perform live in a bar somewhere, probably with sawdust on the floor and raw wood tables heaped high with half-empty beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays.  It’s good music for a good time. 

 Andrew Appletree and the Neptune Riders aren’t all about a good time though.  They have several politically motivated offerings on the album that are rife with intelligent lyrics and skilled instrumentation.  “Casualties Of War” and “QFW America” are both such tracks, although they are very different instrumentally.  “Casualties Of War” is a more reflective offering with a sense of melancholy, while “QFW America” is more in-your-face and aggressive.  In any case, both are highlights on the album.

 There is a slightly softer aspect to this band, and “Wishing Wells” is one such piece.  The guitar work is light and elegant, the rhythm is slower paced, and Appletree’s vocals are more restrained, although still gritty.  There are a few rough notes within this track, as Appletree seems to be out of his comfort zone, but this only adds to the overall charm of this graceful track.  “Time Go” is also a slow number and the piano playing is really what catches the ear here.  It’s a great touch and adds an essential essence to the melody of this piece.

 Dragonfly closes with “59 To The End” which is exactly how this album should end.  Nitty, gritty rock ‘n’ roll.  Andrew Appletree and the Neptune Riders have brought several eras and genres together in this album and they have done it well.  Despite a few rough spots, listeners should have no trouble getting into this music and enjoying it for what it is: Good music for a good time. 


Artist:  Andrew Appletree and the Neptune Riders

Album:  Dragonfly

Review by Rhonda Readence

3.5 stars (out of 5)

The more things change and evolve in rock, the more they stay the same.  Alternative rock has been rock’s primary direction since the rise of Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the early 1990s, but there will inevitably be contemporary bands that function with a deliberately pre-1990s aesthetic.  And Andrew Appletree & the Neptune Riders are such a band.  Dragonfly is a 2012 release with a long list of pre-1990s influences, which  range from Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and George Thorogood & the Destroyers to Motörhead and  AC/DC.  Appletree’s gritty, bluesy, whiskey-soaked approach is a blend of hard rock and roots rock/Americana, with hints of punk at times.  Punk isn’t a huge influence on this album, but it is an influence nonetheless.  And the punk influence is at its strongest on “Devil’s Wife,” “Kentucky Blue” and “QFW America.” 

Appletree’s gravely, rugged, gruff vocal style is an interesting combination of Dylan and Motörhead founder/frontman Lemmy Kilmister.  That is an unlikely combination of vocal influences, certainly; not many of the headbangers who have been influenced by Kilmister could also claim Dylan as an influence.  But in fact, one does hear elements of both Kilmister and Dylan coming from Appletree when he belts it out on edgy rockers such as “Carpe Diem,” “Valley of Death” and “59 to the End.”  But unlike Motörhead’s work, Dragonfly is not metal.  This 58-minute album is relevant to hard rock, but it isn’t heavy metal.  Granted, there can be a fine line between heavy metal and hard rock, and some bands have been a part of both (Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Blue Öyster Cult and Quiet Riot, for example).  But when Appletree and his colleagues passionately tear into “QFW America” or “Analog to Digital,” it is clear that they fall on the hard rock side of things rather than the metal side of things.  And some of the selections are straight-up roots rock; “Time Go” and “Wishing Wells” (which are among the album’s more restrained tunes) could easily appeal to fans of Tom Petty, John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen.

Dragonfly isn’t an overly political album, but it does have its political moments.  The Rolling Stones-influenced “Casualties of War,” for example, takes a look at the suffering that war causes those who are asked to do the fighting; Appletree asserts that even if a soldier dies a hero, he/she is still dead.  Appletree also comments that soldiers who put their lives on the line should understand exactly why they are fighting.  “Casualties of War,” however, makes it point without preaching; the song’s tone is reflective and contemplative, not preachy. 

 Another political track is “QFW America” (the QFW part is short for “Quit Fucking With”).  In contrast to the pensive tone of “Casualties of War,” “QFW America” is raucous and in-your-face; it is also hooky, infectious and very easy to get into.  “QFW America” describes some of the problems that the United States is facing in 2012 (including drugs and poverty) and concludes that change is desperately needed.  The tune is a political wake-up call.

 One of the guitarists on this album is none other than Rick Derringer, who appears on “Casualties of War,” “Time Go,” “Valley of Death” and “Carpe Diem.”  And Derringer’s presence on this album says a lot about Appletree’s musical outlook.  Derringer, who is best known for his 1970s hit “Rock ‘N’ Roll Hoochie Koo,” has been a part of both hard rock and blues-rock; there has been a lot of rootsiness in his work, and that makes him a perfect guest for Appletree’s album.  Indeed, Derringer fits right it on Dragonfly, although he doesn’t appear on all of the selections.

 People who expect Appletree to be full-fledged heavy metal will be disappointed because that isn’t where he is coming from musically.  But for listeners who hold hard rock and roots rock in equally high regard, Dragonfly is a respectable and worthy listen.


Andrew Appletree & the Neptune Riders

Dragonfly

Review by Alex Henderson

3.5 stars (out of 5)

 

 Now here is rock and roll as raw and real as it gets in these days when most music is cut and pasted together instead of being organically grown.  Dragonfly is a refreshing antidote to “X-Factor” style glorified karaoke nonsense and a throwback to artists like Neil Young, Tom Petty, The Black Crowes and even the Stones themselves.

Here we have 13 very rootsy tracks in mostly hard rocking mode, with occasional side trips to wistful balladry.  The record opens with a bang with “Carpe Diem” and you can tell Mr. Appletree and his boys nail that kind of loose, blues-propelled rocking right away.  The guitar is loud and earthy, sometimes on the jangly side, other times full of crunch and crispness.  This first cut has a kind of Stones vibe to it, but the vocals are like Bob Dylan on a moonshine bender.  Those vocals generally fit this type of music, but Appletree kind of lays it on too thick at several points, with singing sounding more like bellowing.  That’s not enough to hurt the record, though.

“Kentucky Blue” is even louder and rawer, a real George Thorogood sounding grinder with some smoky saxophone mixed in and great catchy vocal lines.  This is the real deal right here, classic rock that’s fresh and new and with a kick.  “Plastic Signs” slows things down to an old-school bluesy drawl, with a multi-vocal chorus that sticks in the head.  By now, you can tell we’ve got a pretty wry customer at work on the lyrics, which are entertaining throughout.

“Devil’s Wife” kicks out thick blues riffs so heavy that the song approaches metal stature…this is smoking hard rock right up there with The Black Crowes at their best.  Variety is a good portion of Dragonfly, as “Valley of Death” shows.  This has a sad, jangly kind of feel to it highly reminiscent of Neil Young at his rootsiest.  The title track comes across as just too familiar, with Neil Young worship very obvious, but the scorching guitar solos and emotional lyrics about a drunken, dying preacher elevate it.

“Shining for Me” has a kind of filler feel to it but a nice sax solo to give it some heft.  “Analog To Digital” is a lyrical highlight, as Appletree sarcastically gives praise to the Internet.  Any person born in the analog age can relate to what he’s saying here…the music itself is grinding blues rock.

The second half of the album is not quite as strong as the first, as some tunes like “Casualties of War” and “Wishing Well” are far from the best Andrew and the Neptune Riders can produce. But even these lesser tunes still have an honest sound to them.  And there are some worthy tunes to cap things off, like the defiant “QFW America” and the excellent concluding tune “To The End”, which summons up Tom Petty’s ghost with its strong guitar jamming.

Dragonfly is a heck of a release for the lover of true classic rock.  A couple of tunes pruned from it and maybe a little restraint vocally from Appletree might have even garnered 5 rating.  As it is, it’s still a fine achievement.

ANDREW APPLETREE & THE NEPTUNE RIDERS
Dragonfly
Review by Mike Korn
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)


Artist: Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders

Album: Dragonfly

Review by Alec Cunningham

Andrew Appletree has come a long way since his debut release Andrew Appletree. This time, he has brought in the Neptune Riders to accompany him on the album. The Neptune Riders is made up of a total of three musicians; however the album also incorporates a whole slew of additional performers into the mix. A total of nine other special guests appear during various portions of this new release. Though it is still as odd as the first release, as a whole, this album is clearer cut and better manicured. On the other hand, there are still some of those same, unrefined mannerisms that come through here and there. “Shining For Me” is one of these, but it’s raw, unpolished atmosphere lends a rich mood that complements it perfectly.

“Analog To Digital” is about the improvements the world has made electronically over the years, namely the effect computers have had on society. He refers to the internet as “a spell being cast across the earth”. Yes, the internet and the impact it could have on the future is an odd subject to build a song around, but it does not seem too out of the ordinary once you have been introduced into the musical world of Andrew Appletree.

Appletree certainly did not tread lightly when creating Dragonfly. The case is true for both his rip-roaring rock vocals and instrumentation as well as his lyrical prowess. The songs “Casualties Of War” and “QFW America” exemplifies that perfectly. “Casualties of War” details just what the title describes. He gives his take on war and reminds people that there are still repercussions even when you come out of a war as the victorious party singing, “If you get lucky enough to die a hero, you’re still just another casualty of war.” Immediately after, in “QFW America,” he dives head first into the touchy aspect of politics and the inequality within the world. The meaning of QFW in the song’s title, which stands for “Quit F***ing With” is made clear throughout the song, where it is spouted out more than every so often. With so many F-bombs being thrown around, his anger is evident. This stance Appletree takes, though, is so over-the-top that you can’t help but wonder whether he isn’t attempting to mock extreme nationalism instead of give a true account of his own opinions.

He tones it down a notch with “Wishing Wells,” which is a comforting transition after the onslaught of political dialog expressed within the previous two songs. The tranquil rock ambiance continues into the next song as well with “Time Go”. Though the song is made up mostly of the two phrases, “Where did the time go,” and “Where did our love go,” it contains a soothing melody, which invokes time to reflect on how those questions have played a part in your own life.

Appletree and his gang employee a rich mix of instruments throughout Dragonfly. They play everything from the usual guitar, drums, bass, and piano, to the atypical dobro, saxophone, tambourine, and organ. This in turn adds a unique zest and a full bodied sound to his already interesting take on music. His rough, gruff voice interlinks well with the rock and roll environment he has created for his release. And with his national pride shining through here and there as well as that constant rock and roll atmosphere, Dragonfly has a certain Bruce Springsteen-like American vitality to it.

Review by Alec Cunningham

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)


Artist: Andrew Appletree and the Neptune Riders

Album:  Dragonfly 

The mix of sounds here is somewhere between hard rocking classic sounds, punk and even some metal and space rock. It’s rough around the edges a lot of the time, but that’s part of the charm here. Many of the tracks feature guest performances by Rick Derringer and, as one might guess, his guitar contributions are top-notch.

The guitar driven motif that opens “Carpe Diem” is just plain classic. The vocals are along the lines of a rock and roll Bob Dylan and musically it’s not that far removed from the Rolling Stones. It’s a killer tune that makes for a great opener. Musically “Kentucky Blue” occupies a lot of the same territory as the opener. Paired with the rough gravely vocals, the motif is more or less punk rock meets roots rock.  A slow bluesy rocker, “Plastic Signs (Part 1)” is quite a bit different but still fits. The multiple layers of vocals contribute a sloppy (in a good way) roots rock sound and it still has some punk rock in the mix, but is almost more grunge meets roots rock and the blues.

“Devils Wife” is almost heavy metal. It’s got some killer sounds and modes and the vocals seem to really contribute to that raw metal sound. Think Motorhead, but with more of a roots rock element in place. A slower Saxon might be a valid comparison, too.  There is some especially noteworthy guitar soloing on this. There is more of that roots rock feeling to “Valley of Death.” It has some of the tastiest and most melodic guitar soloing of the whole set and there’s really quite a familiar element at play on the tune. It is certainly one of the most effective cuts on the disc and might be the best on show. 

There’s plenty of that rough around the edges roots rock on the title track, and it’s another highlight of the set. It’s almost set in a singer songwriter sound and there are definite hints of Tom Petty in the mix. It’s another that features some particularly noteworthy guitar soloing, but this time around it’s more incendiary. While there are quite a few changes and alterations, the tune seems to go on a little too long. If there’s a song here that could have been left off, it’s “Shining for Me.” The vocals are particularly hard to take and there’s just not enough magic to make up the difference. It’s just sort of a bit too much of the same. That said, the horn solo on this is the one redeeming factor.

“Analog to Digital” moves into sublime territory. There’s almost a modern King Crimson vibe, but with a bluesy classic rock leaning. After the four minute mark it even turns out to some definite space rock, not that far removed from something by Hawkwind. It’s really a progressive rock piece, but manages to fit with the rest of the disc. It’s one of the most unique arrangements on the set and one of the highlights of the album. The Bob Dylan turned rock approach that was present on the opener returns on “Casualties of War.” It doesn’t have quite the same energy level, but is similar in style. 

The overall effect on “Qfw America” is a punky sort of Motorhead sound. There are some horns and other elements expanding that vibe, though. “Wishing Wells” is another that’s got some progressive rock in the mix. It’s very much a melodic classic rock tune with a lot of style and charm. The melodic guitar soloing is quite tasty and this song certainly stands out from the rest and brings some variety to the table. “Time Go” is another that might have been a contender for leaving off the disc. It’s not bad, but just not all that interesting. The guitar solo is really the only bright spot in the piece. Punk rock merges with something akin to Hawkwind on the hard rocker that’s entitled “59 to the End.” It’s got a great energy and some interesting shifts and turns. It’s a great choice for closer.

 While this is not the kind of thing that will appeal to the masses, there are plenty of great things going on with this disc. For listeners who don’t mind some rough edges, there are really some gems to be found here.

 Review by G. W. Hill

Rating:  3.5 Stars (out of 5)

 

Artist:  Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders


Title:  Dragonfly


Cinder block walls, sawdust and stains on the floor from weekend oil changes.  These sights and smells are the subliminal essence of garage rock.  The time was when the concept of suburbs was still relatively new, and making music in the family garage was a way of life.  Times have changed and technology has leaped and bounded forward, but bands such as Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders continue this time honored tradition.  On their latest album, Dragonfly, Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders take listeners back to a simpler time, but do so with a modern, edgy twist.

Kicking things into gear out of the box, Andrew Appletree lights into “Carpe Diem”, a solid dose of guitar-driven southern/classic rock.  The R&B roots here are plain to hear, and the writing is solid.  Appletree’s voice is pleasantly unpolished, and he makes sure to keep things in a comfortable, easy range.  This is a nice start.  “Kentucky Blue” stays in the same territory, but mixes its upbeat nature with a sneaky, melancholy feel.  Things slow down a bit for “Plastic Signs (Part 1)”, and the band gets caught in a bit of a rut through “Devil’s Wife” and “Valley Of Death”.  “Dragonfly” finds AA&TNR returning to their best sound, dealing a positive vibe and message.  The guitar work here is among the best on the album, and the quiet nature of the song is balanced by an edgy energy that simple will not quit. 

Things get a bit bland on “Shining For Me”, and Appletree can’t lift the masts on “Analog Digital”, a swarthy and slow number about the social transitions of the digital age.  “Casualties Of War” finds the energy picking up a bit, and leads into the firebrand of the album, “QFW America.”  AA&TNR are at their musical height here, eschewing political correctness for a populist message that will have broad appeal.  Musically, the song is well crafted, hewn from the rough-shod, working class roots that bore garage rock in the first place. 

Appletree tries to give us a glimpse of classic rock ballade ring on “Wishing Wells”, but the result is overwrought and surprisingly bland.  This feeling and energy carries over into the penultimate “Time Go”, which is labored enough to cause many listeners to skip out before hearing the final track.  Don’t do it, because “59 To The End” is worth sticking around for.  Born of an early rock sound and with the crunchy style of garage rock intact, “59 To The End” offers up a healthy skepticism over speculations on the end of the world.  The lyrical constructs here, and throughout the album, are a bit awkward at times, but the effort is a fun one. 

Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders is truly born of the 1960’s.  Their unvarnished rock n roll would fit well on AOR radio from that era, and their occasional lyrical fumbling has an authentic air to it that can’t be ignored.  There are a few rough spots here, but there’s enough solid material on Dragonfly to keep you coming back, even if it is for select tracks.

Review by Wildy Haskell

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)


 

 LOVE THIS SONG! MUST BUY! June 22, 2012

59 to the End (feat. Aimee Trachtenberg) 

By BAMAZZUR

Love this song! Found it from Matthew Forss!

The wailing guitars and mandolin-like sounds accompany Andrew Appletree's throaty vocals with a classic nod to `70s rock. Some back-up singers accompany Andrew's apocalyptically-focused themes and driving melodies propel the song head-long into head-bobbing bliss.


 Awesome Album! June 25, 2012 "Shining For Me"

By Nickrules

This album is really fantastic all-around. The blogger Wildy Haskell said it perfectly when speaking about the song Shining For Me, a great example of Appletree's sound: "Shining For Me" is a low-fi, metaphorical celebration of a beautiful day. The sound here is messy and unpolished but that's what makes it fun, and the distorted electric violin solo is an absolute treat for the ears."

 ROCK AND ROLL! "QFW America" June 25, 2012

By ShannonRose

I loved the rock and roll sound of "QFW America." Blogger Heath Andrews felt the same way in his review!

"Strip away the lyric to "QFW America" by Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders, and you're left with a rip-roaring rock and roll track, rife with relentless drumming, strong guitar soloing, a pounding bass line, and a saxophone mixed in for good measure. Insert the lyric however and it's hard to know how to take the song. QFW stands for "Quit F****** With (America)" and this titular refrain is shouted so often and with so much gusto it's difficult to tell whether this is a sincere statement, or a satirical take on over-the-top patriotism.

Awesome Album! Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders "Dragonfly"

 Itunes reveiws

by bigboyeeee

This album is an all-around great display of songwriting. Wildy Haskell described the song QFW America perfectly when he said: “QFW America” is a mid-tempo growler full of punk attitude and pith. This is definitely not for tender ears, as Andrew Appletree delves into issues of politics and social and fiscal inequality in no uncertain terms."

"Shining for Me" Review 

by Helen Falasco  Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders "Dragonfly"

I found this awesome review of "Shining for Me" from blogger Heath Andrews! Here's what he had to say:

"This laidback, heartfelt number from Andrew Appletree & The Neptune Riders has a wonderful melody and a beautiful sincerity to its lyric. “Shining For Me” hits all the right notes, though Appletree’s coarse delivery and limited range aren’t well suited for this type of song. Everything is played really well, including an exceptionally performed saxophone solo; the song just lacks a little vocally, though not enough to detract from its imagery and sincerity."


Artist:  Andrew Appletree

Album:  Andrew Appletree

Andrew Appletree’s debut disc is certainly an album that benefits from repeated listening. First time around Appletree’s vocals often feel awkward. As a familiarity with the material grows, some, but not all, of that disappears. There are still moments where Appletree wanders off key and at times he seems to be pulling against the rhythmic structure of the song. Those moments are in-frequent enough to avoid seriously marring the album, though.

“Angels and Movie Stars” opens the disc. It features a roots rock meets singer/songwriter arrangement. The spoken vocals call to mind Lou Reed a bit. The chorus includes female backing vocals and other elements that bring it closer into an almost country music sound. At points Appletree’s vocals are a bit hard to take on this number, but overall, it’s a piece that gets further into the listener’s psyche with each subsequent spin.

As “Flying” first drifts across the ears, the mostly spoken vocals feel a bit awkward. Still, there’s a Bob Dylan sort of sound on hand. It works out to a more full arrangement and a lot of charm is contained on the more rock oriented sections. The backing female vocals call to mind Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album. Some saxophone at the end reinforces that leaning, but there is also some country styled guitar in the track.

“Everything” comes in with a lot more of a rock sound. Appletree’s vocals on this cut have almost a punk rock sound to them. In many ways this piece feels more like a punk rock take on roots rock.  “Leave'n Soon” is definitely the best piece of the set. Appletree’s voice doesn’t wander into difficult territory, which helps, but the arrangement is the real winner. It features a jazz meets Latin musical style. A duet with Aimee Trachtenberg brings emotion and charm to the piece. It’s pretty and a little sad. It’s also very dramatic and powerful. There’s a more rocking section later in the piece that still works incredibly well.

 While Appletree’s vocals again seem a little awkward on “Caught in the Middle,” the main musical elements are still quite strong. The lyrical content feels little too personal in some ways, but that’s more a matter of personal taste. It’s still one of the stronger pieces on the set. A slower, dramatic, movement later in the piece, almost feels a bit like progressive rock. The female vocals have a bit of a non-lyrical solo and then the cut launches out into a killer guitar solo. From there it really works into some seriously Pink Floyd-like sounds.

The vocals on “Deal” certainly have that Lou Reed-like awkwardness, making the track a little hard to take. It’s more of singer songwriter number at first. The arrangement gets more involved and progressive rock like later, though. It would feel stronger if it followed a weaker number. As it is, it has trouble standing alongside the power of the closing sections of “Caught in the Middle.” “Faith” is one of the most ordinary songs on the set. It feels a bit like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed. It’s sort of middle of the road and a little forgettable.

“You” benefits from one of Appletree’s best vocal performances and a killer arrangement. In a lot of ways it’s just a straight-piece, but the female vocals and layered instrumental sounds bring a lot of drama and charm to the piece. Springsteen is again a valid reference point, but there are some hints of country music in the mix, too.

 “Getting Away” is another strong number. It features a lot of that country music mixed with some great guitar playing and a Pink Floyd oriented sound. The vocals are strong, with even the spoken ones working quite well. It does extremely well in the closing position, enticing the listener to hit the “repeat” button. There’s even some Roy Orbisson oriented sounds at times on the piece.

 In the final analysis, it appears that Appletree’s musical arrangements are strong. He lacks a bit in delivery in terms of the vocal performance. Still, the disc works remarkably well despite that shortcoming.

 Review by Gary Hill

Rating:  3.5 Stars (out of 5)


Artist: Andrew Appletree

Album: Andrew Appletree

Review by Alec Cunningham

Andrew Appletree has done a good job at making a first impression with his first release, a 9-song self-titled album. And yes, Appletree’s cover art for his album is in fact a photo of an apple tree – that’s one sure fire way to get people to remember your name.  Donning a leather jacket and long side burns, his look is a cross between Elvis and Meatloaf, but his voice has a deeper, huskier tone to it like that of Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits. Other than Appletree’s Elvis-like appearance, very few other parallels to the rock and roll era are created. Instead, Appletree exemplifies a sound that is very much his own.

His self-titled album opens with the sound of a movie reel, which is perhaps a fitting beginning for a song titled “Angels And Movie Stars.” Appletree transfers from “movie stars” to “shooting stars” in the middle of each chorus to suggest that the life of a movie star is short-lived and will more than likely fizzle out not long after it begins.

Some of his songs are sung in a sort of whispered singing that could sometimes verge on being deemed spoken word, especially in “Flying,” where he uses this tone throughout most of the song. His songs have an all-around soft, quite tone to them; Appletree’s voice flows and mingles with each melody. Though his music does have a decidedly rock air to it, the instruments and melodies used point the songs in a more soothing, more tranquil direction.

As the shortest song on the album, “Everything” does not contain too many intricacies in the form of verses. In fact, the chorus gives most of the detail as to the meaning of the song. The song slowly progresses from the beginning of a relationship to the revealing of the relationship’s downsides. The chorus goes from “You know I wanted everything . . . Yeah, I want to give her everything” at the beginning of the song to, “Then she came and took everything; now she expects everything,” at the end.

In “Deal,” Appletree asks for a new start to a relationship. Though the song uses an electric guitar as well as an acoustic, the melody is surprisingly soft and delicate, which meshes well with the song’s lyrics. He sings almost pleadingly, “I don’t know how you deal with what you do . . . darlin’, let’s start over.” 

In the first five songs on the album, Appletree makes use of background singers – he also uses them later on in “Faith,” a song that poses the question of what to do to increase faith. Those background singers, however, are actually from Uruguay, where Appletree recorded more than half the album. Appletree was the only one to record any part of the album in the United States; each background artist he employees for the album recorded their sections in Uraguay.

Appletree uses an all-around somewhat darker, macabre sound that makes the whole album seem as if it could be turned into a musical, much like that of the musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, perhaps without the whole “sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania” spin, though. This musical utilizes female background vocals and typical jazz instruments, much like Appletree does with much of this album.

The album Andrew Appletree has a very unique sound to it; you may even call the sound odd. His music may take two listens to truly get into, but as soon as you do you’ll have a much better appreciation for his sound.

 Review by Alec Cunningham

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5 )

Artist: Andrew Appletree

Album Title: Andrew Appletree

Review by Jim Testa

 Floridian Andrew Appletree claims influences ranging from Pink Floyd to the Grateful Dead, but his self-titled album’s appeal draws from the strain of country-influenced   singer-songwriters who emerged from the L.A. scene of the Seventies.   Appletree’s engaging voice recalls the mellifluous Glen Campbell and his melodies echo the easy-going rambles of artists like Jackson Browne and the Eagles.

Recorded in both Uruguay and the United States, and using some Uruguayan session players, Andrew Appletree doesn’t really display much Latin influence, but there are soulful backup singers, funky sax, and chunky power chords that do serve to broaden Appletree’s musical palette and reference artists like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.

Appletree does fine when he sings; his one misstep comes on those occasions when he tries to accentuate his lyrics by dropping into a speaking voice, or an exaggerated Dylanesque drawl.  It doesn’t really work and detracts from the fine melodies he’s crafted.

The album opens with the grinding sound of an old movie projector, introducing “Angels And Movie Stars.”  Pedal steel and female backing vocals nicely accentuate the loping tempo and Appletree’s deeply pitched lead vocal.  The cinematic quality of the arrangement and the twangy country vibe of the melody can’t help but conjure fond memories of the hits that Jimmy Webb wrote for Glen Campbell. 

Appletree gets more topical on “Flying,” complaining about how the bad news of the day can drain the joy out of life.  It’s a strong, relatable sentiment and nicely augmented by the backing vocalists and some jazzy saxophone, but this is one of the songs where Appletree sometimes speaks the lyrics for emphasis rather than sing them, and the effect is a bit off-putting.  Still, the song boasts another strong country melody.

“Everything” kicks off with chunky guitars and a nice rock ‘n’ roll groove, and Appletree’s emphatic vocal here is reminiscent of Dramarama’s John Easdale.  Aimee Trachtenburg shares lead vocals on the sultry and passionate “Leave’n Soon,” a romantic duet with a tango rhythm and evocative r&b sax.

“Caught In The Middle” opens with an interesting film noir vibe, jazzy and a bit mysterious, which expands into a Tom Petty-ish chorus, as Appletree and his female backup singers repeat “caught in the middle again.”  This track segues back and forth between several different styles and provides a nice change of pace, especially as it crescendos into a big dramatic finish.

“Deal” brings us back to Malibu with that Californian gentle easy-listenin’ vibe, and one of Appletree’s strongest vocals, as he romantically beseeches his lady love, “darlin’ please surrender to me” to pealing guitars and pleasingly funky drums.

The spiritual “Faith” finds Appletree looking for “a little faith in my life,” to a slow-tempo country melody.  The female chorus here makes a lovely addition, adding a fervent gospel flavor to the track. 

The addition of mandolin and accordion graces “You,” another of Appletree’s Jimmy Webb-like ballads with a strong taste of the heartland.  Stephanie Holm’s second vocal here is just enchanting, recalling Emmylou Harris’ contributions to Neil Young and Gram Parson. This is a very strong and likable country-flavored track that seems perfect for the radio.

The six-minute “Getting Away” finishes up and, in a way, epitomizes the collection, a perfect summation of this album’s strengths and occasional weaknesses.  The lilting melody is romantic and evocative, the arrangement perfect with its gentle use of pedal steel and soulful backing vocals. Appletree’s vocal perfectly conveys the wistful regret of the lyrics, with its repeated chorus of “I need you more everyday.”  But when he narrates rather than sings, the song falters; it’s a shame he doesn’t trust his singing voice enough to let it carry the song without adding unneeded emphases. 

For a first album, by a non-professional musician, Andrew Appletree displays ample songcraft, a strong grasp of studio dynamics, and an excellent ear for arrangements. These songs will appeal to the country and AOR fan who appreciates a strong melody and heartfelt sentiment. 

 

Review by Jim Testa

Rating:  2.5 Stars (out of 5)

© Mark Stephenson/Andrew Appletree 2008-2013