I was pretty excited when I read the bio J. Armen enclosed with this CD. He’s an Armenian immigrant who mixes his native music with “New York Latin Jazz, Blues and Folk.” Funny, though, it sounds just like good old adult contemporary. Once I got past the missing exotic elements, though, there’s a lot to like.
Although J.’s not much of a singer (he hits all the notes, but is kind of mealy mouthed), he can really pick a guitar. His lead style brushes against the blues, but it’s got a lot more Santana flavor, and laid against his jazzy chording, is really pleasant. His melodies aren’t eye-poppingly original, but he usually balances his lethargic verses with a moderately hooky chorus. “Got to Be Going” and “’Til Georgia” stand out for their catchiness.
Although the arrangements are pretty standard acoustic guitar-drums-bass and don’t do much to complement the melodies, there are a couple exceptions. “Dancing Maria” has a lovely trumpet accompaniment, and “The Epic” has a delightful chorus (sung in Armenian?) of a pair of opera singers trilling with all their might against Armen’s lead guitar. These kind of innovative musical touches were what I was hoping for from reading the bio.
For an independent release, Plan B is professional sounding, with excellent recording and precise playing (the backing vocals from Yeraz Markarian and Nanor Misserlian are particularly luscious). It’s a really nice record for relaxing in rush hour, but a more thorough approach to blending styles would make it something to really grab your attention.
Plan B is available through J. Armen’s web site.
I do want to clarify a couple of things, though although I was born in Armenia and do produce Armenian music on occasion, and do hire musicians of Armenian decent on occasion, I personally do not mix Armenian music into my personal writing. The two voices on "The Epic", though sung by two Armenian singers is actually in Italian :) (it translates to "My love, I am with you, forgive me today) If you like Armenian music, I produce a wonderful a capella trio called Zulal; they do ethnic music. They have a three song CD I can send to you. In fact, my wife is in it. You can hear some samples on their site, www.zulal.org.
Complaints, criticisms, or bribery reviews: Contact me!