Paul Porter,
Paul Porter
(self-produced, 2001)

Paul Porter has a great feel for a groove and he has a terrific band. From the first few bars of his self-titled CD, it's clear that he enjoys his music and that his bandmates are pros with an enthusiasm for the material.

Porter has been heavily influenced by '70s rock, from Pink Floyd and Yes to Neil Young and Tom Petty. For me, the most successful tracks are the most straightforward and rocky (in particular "Steven's Desert") and the least effective were the quieter and more thoughtful ("Kelly's Birthday"), which suffer sometimes from overly sweet harmonies and arrangements.

The most serious problem here is the mix. Porter's vocals, which can be soft and tentative, are often mixed back, which highlights the problem. A better approach might be to embrace this imperfect voice, which resembles Tom Petty's, and put it right up front, warts and all, and without reverb and overdubbing. I'd love to hear a remix of "Everybody Sees the Enemy But Me," a personal song that could have much more edge with a punchier approach.

It's worth working on those vocals and making them stronger no matter how the album is produced. Porter's tunes are catchy and well-structured, although he can be predictable in lyrics and melody. Relying mostly on standard roots-rock changes, his best songs take those standard chords and turn them into something new and original. As far as vocal approach is concerned, Porter comes out of his shell on the live track "Another Love Gone Bad," which isn't a particularly new-sounding song but has energy and drive thanks to the enthusiastic and gritty performance.

Lots of credit goes to the band, who support Porter well and add lots of good ideas without stealing focus. Bruce Hazen does an admirable job on lead guitar, Garey Shelton's bass really shines on the introspective "Two Street," and Ben Smith's drumming is always solid. Producer Steve Adamek, who also does keyboard duty, brings it all together into a very listenable package.

[ by Joy McKay ]
Rambles: 21 December 2001