What do you say when an absolute Legend contacts you and asks if you would like to review his latest album? Of course, the answer is yes. Dean Friedman is a classic songwriter and his songs are always infused with love, telling stories of real life, the ups and the downs and have a rich layer of humour running through them as well.
Dean Friedman is probably best known for “Well, Well Said The Rocking Chair” which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018 with a mammoth tour (see below for the link to the dates). He has also had classic hits such as Lucky Stars, Lydia and Woman of Mine.
12 Songs is his eighth studio album features tracks filled with the consummate lyrical and musical brilliance, poignancy, revealing insight, wry humour and sheer artistry that listeners have come to expect from this master songsmith/recording-artist.
To know and love Dean Friedman is to know that he plays with music styles, slipping them on as easily as a well loved jacket, moving effortlessly from jazz to rock, pop to country and back again. This album is filled with songs that tell stories of love, missing home, randomness and also a song which he dedicated to Malala Yousafzai, the brave defender of girl’s rights to education.
Says Friedman, “After four decades of writing, performing and recording, I feel like this new album contains some of my best songwriting, singing, playing and production, to date.”
The album starts with Your Pretty Face, reminding you of what Dean Friedman is famous for, which are piano tracks that have a classic feel. In this case the piano simply provides the occasional accompaniment rather than this being the focus. That honour goes to the smooth tone of Dean’s vocals which move from smooth to wistful. The track is mellow but with a beauty that is sure to make this a classic.
The Hummingbird Effect is filled with so much love that you can feel it bursting out of the track. Elegant piano playing and effects to mimic a hummingbird in flight make this a stand out track. Poignant and moving, with a masterclass in storytelling, you can see the hummingbird and the person about whom this track is written in your minds eye. Dean’s vocals convey the lightness of flight and also depth of emotion. It is a stunning track that I have played over and over.
Using humour in the lyrics Time Flies is a sci fi adventure into space travel, with jazz signatures which help this playful track to move around effortlessly, keeping you floating on the richness of the vocals. I Could Fall For You is another beautiful track. Slow moving with the instrumentation mimicking the vocals, using a jazz / blues feel, this is sultry and elegant. It reminded me of a brilliantly executed dance. It is a song about falling in love with someone that you see, with your mind moving into all of the realms of possibility for the future. The way that the melody moves impersonates the heady feel of falling in love, graceful and sublime.
Kite Song is apparently a metaphor for Dean’s recording career and reminded me of a Broadway production. Using big brass sounds this is a fast paced track, which rips along, like a kite being blown all over the place. It has a rat pack vibe making this a track that puts a huge smile on your face and gets your toes tapping.
Then You starts with vocals and piano and has a ballad feel. Vocals dripping with emotion, questioning and with a slight hint of gravel in them add to the overall feel of the track which builds up with fluid guitar. The changes in texture really work allowing the track to develop.
Telling the story of the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916 The Ducks of St Stephens Green uses Celtic influences, allowing Dean to tell this true story but through the eyes of the ducks. It has a haunting quality and is verdant with imagery. Loose Ends is a track to get you moving. Using harmonica and female backing vocals it has a funky vibe. If you had any concerns over how Dean’s vocals are holding up listen to the range on this track and you will see that he still delivers.
Something Right tells the story of children growing up, hopeful and replete with emotion, but with a sense of humour as well. Any parent will recognise the themes in the lyrics, the hesitancy and the delight, mixing with the surprise that it all turned out rather well.
Using a country feel from the guitars and vocals Your Friend Janet is a very funny track and shows how Dean is not afraid to mix it up. The track features a female vocalist and the voices really work. Basically, this track is them both slagging off each other’s friends, whilst recognising that they like each other “just a little bit.”
This Guitar is dedicated to his old Martin D-35 acoustic guitar. Telling the story of this old guitar and how it doesn’t work anymore. You can hear the affection for this instrument in the vocals and the tone from the guitar. Malala is dedicated to Malala Yousafzai and all that she did for female education in Pakistan. Using multi layered voices, initially repeating her name over and over dispersed with chimes, recognising her bravery and youth. It is a powerful track but uses a joyful gaiety to bring home its message.
If you love artists such as Billy Joel and have never heard of Dean Friedman go and check him out. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. However, there is so much more to Dean Friedman than a singer who plays piano, he is a consummate storyteller who weaves imagery and humour throughout his works with a lightness of touch that is masterful. He is not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve or sing about personal moments, always trying something new. This is a great album, filled with joy. Do yourself a favour and go an see him on this tour, I know you will have an incredible evening.
Website: http://www.deanfriedman.com/ (click on the gig section for all of the upcoming UK and Ireland dates)