Under An Urban Moon
J. Michael Reeds 'UNDER AN URBAN MOON' by: Jed Ryan PM Entertainment Magazine 'Under an Urban Moon' opens with the moving 'Beauty of the Rain'. This first track starts with a melancholy, sparse melody. Slowly, J. Michael Reeds brings his voice into the music. It's haunting (almost mournful), and stark yet empowering. The background melody, with piano mimicking raindrops and adornment by violins, slowly intensifies in it's intensity and richness; yet Reeds' voice stays controlled and prominent. Somber yet enlivening at the same time, 'Beauty of the Rain' is the equivalent of walki ng home alone at dusk on an empty street while a few raindrops warn of an upcoming shower; the feeling is bittersweet, as if you long for company on your walk home but are grateful for... well, the beauty of the rain. Next up is the sax-heavy 'Caramel', where true to his affinity for jazz, Reeds adopts a deeper tone and coolly takes a step back, vocally. Throughout the album, themes of desire, loneliness, longing, joy, and nostalgia predominate. With 'Under an Urban Moon', New York City jazz vocalist J. Michael Reeds delivers his most eclectic collection of songs yet, in what has indeed been a prolific discography through the years. For the album's 12 tracks, Reeds experiments with some new sounds, and re-works some music that surely deserves to be heard again. For 'Under an Urban Moon', he covers music written by songwriters as diverse as E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen ('Down With Love') to modern songwriting icons like Cat Stevens ('If I Laugh') and Neil Young ('Harvest Moon'). Nevertheless, Reeds never deviates too far from what he knows best. J. Michael Reeds' greatest asset, his voice, is always in the forefront. Even when singing about heartache, astute listeners can hear an underlying optimism within Reeds' distinctive vox; likewise, his renditions of love songs are refreshingly unsaccharine. The voice may be Reeds' calling card, but there's more than that, and his 'Walk a Little Faster' (Carolyn Leigh/Cy Coleman) is a great example. With 'Walk a Little Faster' and so many of his other songs, Reeds=2 0always delivers as if he's performing live to an intimate (or not-so-intimate) crowd. The samba-flavored 'Close Your Eyes' (by Bernice Petkere, made famous by Peggy Lee...) keeps Reeds' voice in the forefront, with the music starting off with bare percussion and slowly increasing in intensity as the song progresses. Reed adopts a cool sensuality in his voice for this one. A very different sound and style is featured in 'Harvest Moon'. The mood for Reeds' take on this track is ethereal, almost hypnotic, and even a bit 'industrial'-- yet not without emotion or romanticism. The song is accented by tribal-sounding beats and piano. Full of superb musical and vocal nuances, the mid-tempo, piano-driven, totally invigorating 'Pissed Off 2 AM' is the best track on 'Under An Urban Moon'; J. Michael Reeds seems most in his element with this one as he sings lyrics like, 'How I wish my breath, It didn't hurt so much; Then you'd be up babe, It's only two. Why don't you sleep? You look as though you need it; The barricades and reasons, they mean nothing to me. Now they mean nothing to me...') A real highlight on the album is Reeds' lively spin on a pair of standards: 'Down With Love' and 'Just Friends (Lovers No More)'. The mirthful 'Down With Love' ('Down with eyes romantic and stupid, Down with sighs and down with Cupid; Brother let's stuff that dove, Down with love!'), a pop and jazz tune covered by artists from Judy Garland to Bobby Darin to Michael Buble (and famously performed by Barbra Streisand on Judy Garland's TV show in 1963), and 'Just Friends' are both perfect for Reeds: His take on these favorites is appropriately zesty and frenetic, and he's backed by an equally playful piano. 'Walking Shoes', likewise, is bolstered by intricate, flawless piano work. 'If I Laugh' has a more grand sound, thanks to high-energy percussion and piano; the music almost rivals Reeds' voice for the spotlight. 'Let's Get Lost' is feverishly romantic. As I mentioned before, a great deal of Reeds' appeal is his ability to convey the complexity of human emotions into his music, and the album's finale, 'Don't Go to Strangers' ('Build your dreams, To the stars above; But when you need someone true to love, Don't go to strangers, Darling come to me...') is the epitome of that. In terms of musical and vocal quality, the song (written by Arthur Kent, Dave Mann, and Redd Evans) is a flawless 'until we meet again' closer for 'Under the Urban Moon' . Many singers are born with an amazing voice, but it's clear that J. Michael Reeds takes his innate gift one step beyond. Whether it's from his own experiences, inspiration from other artists, or a keen understanding of what will affect his listeners, Reeds knows how optimally deliver his talents to his audiences. This reviewer, for one, wonders if the 'urban moon' of the album's title has been at least one source for the artist's inspiration. If so, then let's all hope that J. Michael Reeds takes many more m idnight walks around New York City.