JAMIE ALIMORAD – Album Review: “This is Tomorrow Calling”

Jamie Alimorad

Singer-songwriter Jamie Alimorad has had music in his blood practically all his life. As a teen, he played in a garage band, for which he wrote all the songs, and in high school, he was literally the face of the music department. By the time he was attending college at Northeastern University in Boston, he released his first EP Cornerstone (in 2010), then followed up two years later with his critically-acclaimed full-length album Words Left Unsaid, winning several music and songwriting awards. His very first video, for the song “Beautiful” from that album, has been viewed over 2 million times! Writing and recording songs had always seemed to come easy to him. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t so easy anymore.

Starting in early 2015, and continuing over the next few years, he wrote and recorded dozens of songs for a new album, but none of them satisfied him. He grew frustrated and filled with crippling self-doubt, wondering if he’d ever be successful again. So, he took a couple of classes with famed singer-songwriter, musician and producer Gino Vannelli, who offers small Art of  Song & Voice Master Class sessions at his music studio in Troutdale, Oregon. Jamie took one of his songs “A Moment Is All I Ask” to the second class, and after working on the song together, he and Vannelli realized they’d make a great team collaborating on an original project. That project ultimately became Jamie’s second album This is Tomorrow Calling, which was released on September 27th.

Working with Vannelli was an artistic rollercoaster ride for Jamie, filled with unique challenges and opportunities. He recalls “No one had ever told me in music, ‘It’s not good enough.’ No one had ever said, ‘You could be better.’ Gino put me on an island. No map, no shelter, no supplies. Make the island paradise, find a way out, or die. Those were the options, and it was up to me to create my tomorrow. Eventually Gino and I recorded eight songs together. Upon moving to Los Angeles, I did two more cuts with [Gino’s brother] Ross Vannelli. These two legends took me under their wings and opened my eyes to who I am. I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me.”

For the album, Jamie sang lead and backing vocals, and played keyboards, acoustic guitar and programming. Gino Vannelli played additional keyboard, organ, acoustic guitar, synth bass, drums, percussion and programming. Ross Vannelli sang backing vocals and also played keyboard, electric guitar, synth bass, drums, percussion and programming. Additional keyboards and programming were provided by George Whitty and Greg Goebel, electric guitar by Dalton Cyr, and backing vocals by Julie LaMeng and Moorea Masa. The album was produced by Gino Vannelli, though two of the tracks were produced by Ross.

Jamie’s pleasing sound could probably best be classified as adult contemporary pop-rock, although his music includes elements of folk, Americana, country and jazz. His thoughtful, relatable lyrics are set to catchy melodies and brought to life through superb instrumentation and rich sound textures. Listening to This is Tomorrow Calling, I’m struck by how good it sounds – the beautiful arrangements, lush soundscapes and, most notably, Jamie’s marvelous vocals. Every track is superb, showcasing his skillful songwriting, musicianship and impressive vocal range, but I’ll highlight my personal favorites.

The album opener “Brighter Days” is a terrific, upbeat song about not letting your problems overwhelm you, and staying positive in the hope that things will get better. A phrase in one of the lyrics is the album’s title, and really encapsulates its overall theme of love and resilience. “When living’s hard and you think you’re better off dead. This is tomorrow calling, there are brighter days ahead.” The genre-bending song has an infectious dance beat, with a bit of a country-rock vibe thanks to twangy guitars and some great vocal harmonies, and hits us in all the right feels. In conjunction with its release this past August, Jamie partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise funds for their cause. Proceeds from sales of a “Brighter Days” t-shirt at https://www.teepublic.com/user/jamiealimorad will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

On “Not Just Another Pretty Face“, Jamie sings of the many virtues of the object of his affection in addition to her good looks. “You’re more than a heavenly sight. Not just a Renoir on the wall, or a statue in a marble hall. You’re not just another pretty face. That’s what I love most of all.” The jazzy piano, organ runs and lively percussion, along with his smooth vocals and occasional scatting, make for an incredibly delectable song in the style of Michael Bublé.

Down on Golden Shores” is a lovely but bittersweet song about loss, with some especially poignant lyrics like these:  “Poor Louie was one of the best-looking dudes you ever did see. Kandahar sure did a number on his perfect body. /My Alex was so full of life. I thought someday to make her my wife. But the world is full of best-laid plans, made by sea and golden sands.” The piano, gentle guitar, harmonica and strings are all sublime, as are Jamie’s heartfelt vocals.

The radio-friendly “Not Ready to Say Goodbye” was the lead single from the album, and with its haunting melody, beautiful guitar work and infectious Latin rhythms, is definitely one of the standout tracks. Jamie passionately implores to the woman he’s fallen for to not end their budding relationship: “I fell head over heels, I jumped when you said jump. Too fast, too deep, just call me a chump. Not ready to say goodbye. Not ready to take the fall. Not ready to say goodbye. I’m in it for the long haul.”

A track that jumped right out at me on my first listen of the album was “Lucky Me“, a delightful kiss-off song that Jamie wrote as needed therapy after a bad breakup. The amusing lyrics describe how he quickly fell for her, only to discover that she was toxic: “They popped right out of my head when I laid my eyes on her, not knowing what kind of claptrap lay in my future. Lucky me! She came and went in a New York minute. Lucky me! It’s a beautiful world and I’m right back in it. The two best days of my life: One was finding her. Ooh the second one was losing her. Lucky me.” With its jazzy organ, guitar and percussive grooves, the song has a cool, late 70s Steely Dan vibe, and is one of my favorites on the album. And need I mention yet again how good Jamie’s vocals are?

How Could I Love Again” is a poignant song about having such a deep, intense love for someone that you don’t believe you are capable of ever loving another. The beautiful, piano-driven melody provides a moving backdrop for Jamie’s heartfelt vocals as he laments “Once I loved one woman such, that I thought to die without her touch. Because I loved her far too much, how could I love again?

On the album closer “Nights In the Back Bay“, Jamie seems to recall his experiences while attending college in Boston, and wanting to recapture the passion and creativity he had for making music back then. “I remember when the road had no end. My faith has been shaken, my heart keeps aching to return to those nights in the Back Bay. I’ve gotta get born all over again.” Musically, the song has a hauntingly beautiful melody that sounds brooding at times, yet uplifting and hopeful at others. The laid-back twangy guitars give the track an Americana feel, and the tinkling piano keys, synths, bass and crisp percussion are all wonderful.

This is Tomorrow Calling is a gorgeous work, with some of the finest production values of any album I’ve heard in a long while. Jamie and the Vannelli brothers should be very proud of their creation, as it’s impressive on every level. While its laid-back, easy-listening style probably won’t appeal to everyone, anyone who enjoys quality music, great lyrics and beautiful male vocals will enjoy this album.

Jamie will be opening for Gino Vannelli on Saturday, October 12 at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, CA.

To learn more about Jamie, visit his Website
Connect with him on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon /  Google Play

EML’s Favorite Songs – CARPENTERS: “Superstar”

Superstar-Carpenters

From the moment I first heard “(They Long to Be) Close to You” in the early summer of 1970 until the mid-1970s, the Carpenters were one of my favorite acts. Their music was beautiful, with the kind of lush orchestration I’ve always loved, and Karen Carpenter had the voice of an angel. I loved them so much I actually wrote a paper about them for my 11th grade English class – perhaps an early presage to my much later calling as a music blogger? They had a successful run of huge hits from 1970-1975, and one of my favorites is the bittersweet “Superstar“.

The song was written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, and originally titled “Groupie Song”. But when it was recorded by Delaney & Bonnie and released as a B-side on their single “Comin’ Home” in December 1969, it was re-titled “Groupie (Superstar)”. The song tells the story of a female groupie’s one-night stand with a rock star, whom she hopes will return to her. It was covered by a number of artists, including Joe Cocker (on his Mad Dogs & Englishmen Live Tour album, with vocals sung by Rita Coolidge), Bette Midler (on her debut album The Divine Miss M), Cher, and Australian rock group McPhee, among others. But it was the Carpenters version that stands head and shoulders above the rest, and became one of their biggest hits, peaking at #2 (Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” had a 5-week run at #1 in the fall of 1971, preventing “Superstar” from reaching the top).

The story goes that Richard Carpenter first became aware of “Superstar” after hearing it sung by a relatively unknown Bette Midler on The Tonight Show in 1971. He loved the song and thought it would be perfect for Karen, and wrote a new arrangement to fit their style. Shockingly, when he played it for her, she wasn’t thrilled with the song. She later recalled “For some reason that tune didn’t hit me in the beginning. It’s the only one. Richard looked at me like I had three heads. He said: ‘Are you out of your mind!‘” But after they recorded the song, she grew to love it too.

“Superstar” was produced by Richard Carpenter with Jack Daugherty, and recorded with members of The Wrecking Crew, the famed collective of Los Angeles area session musicians. As the song’s storyline was originally more risqué than what was typical for the Carpenters, Richard changed a lyric in the second verse “And I can hardly wait to sleep with you again” to the somewhat less suggestive “And I can hardly wait to be with you again.”

The song is breathtakingly beautiful, with rich orchestral instrumentation highlighted by a soaring horn section, gorgeous oboe played by Earle Dumler, a somber, understated bassline by Joe Osborn, drums by the legendary Hal Blaine (even though Karen was herself an accomplished drummer), and a lovely keyboards by Richard Carpenter. Karen’s distinctive contralto vocals never sounded better or more resonant, beautifully conveying the fervent longing for someone you love to return and ease your loneliness. “Superstar” is one of my favorite songs of the 1970s, and for all time.

Long ago and oh so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show
Your guitar it sounds so sweet and clear
But you’re not really here
It’s just the radio

Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby oh baby
I love you, I really do

Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again…ooh baby
Come back to me again…baby
And play your sad guitar

Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby oh baby
I love you, I really do

I still remember the exact moment in February 1983 when I heard that Karen Carpenter had died from heart failure at the age of only 32, as a result from years of suffering with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. I was in my car on the way to a meeting, and nearly burst into tears. Like so many other great artists and musicians who passed away far too soon, Karen’s death was a tremendous loss to the music world.

A BLUE FLAME – 3-Track Single Review: “Blueprints For Time Machines”

A Blue Flame EP art

I’m not quite sure what’s behind the current flood of creative energy, but it seems that nearly everyone is putting out new music in 2019. At least that’s the case for a large percentage of the artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog over the past three and a half years. Another one of them is A Blue Flame, the music project of British singer/songwriter Richard Stone, who’s just released a new three-track single “Blueprints for Time Machines“, the first of four releases that will comprise his upcoming album due out this summer.

A Blue Flame’s songs tell compelling stories about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak through poetic, heartfelt lyrics and sublime melodies. The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and yourself – are recurring themes in his songs. Musically, his songs feature an eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk and rock, delivered with his smooth, pleasing vocal style. I first featured him on this blog in October 2016, when I reviewed his beautiful album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains. In January 2018, I reviewed his equally stellar follow-up album When Your Whole World Turns to Dust, which dropped in September 2017. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the bottom of this page.)

A Blue Flame

Stone writes all his songs and plays guitar on all the tracks. He arranges them with assistance from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson on keyboards and horns. About these new singles, Stone explains: “Blueprints has the interesting concept that if you went back in time to improve what you’d done, you’d make the past better than the present you have already created through mistakes made in the past!

The exhilarating first track “Blueprints for Time Machines” is short, lasting barely over two minutes, but makes quite an impact with a thunderous mix of roiling riffs and hammering percussion, punctuated by staccato bursts of stabbing guitars and punchy drumbeats. Stone’s passionate vocals are commanding as he loudly proclaims “Blueprints for time machines. I need designs and plans and schemes. So I can make yesterday better than I made today.”

A Blue Flame keeps the energy flowing with “You Blink and it’s Gone”, an exuberant song with a wonderfully complex melody incorporating elements of rock’n’roll, Latin and pop music. The intricate layered guitars are fantastic, and I love the lively trumpet work and backing vocal harmonies. The lyrics speak to a relationship that’s lost the initial spark that drew them together in the beginning, and now looking back with sad resignation: “I wish that I’d known then what I know now. I would have held you high above the crowd. / Feels like forever, then you blink and it’s gone. You need to let go, but you’re still holding on. And you can’t even tell if you’ve lost or you’ve won. You blink and it’s gone.”

Things turn melancholy with the languid “Pull for the Shore”, a track that almost sounds like two songs melded together. It starts off slowly, with acoustic guitars and gentle snare drum, then a smooth organ riff enters as Stone sings in a rather sad tone: “You’re lost again. You feel like you’re running on the spot again. Reached inside and given all you’ve got again. You think you may be headed for the drop again. You’re down my friend.” Eventually, the pace of the music quickens and music builds as he urges self-preservation: “Hey ho, don’t take anymore. Pull for the Shore.” Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo abruptly transitions to a faster rock vibe, with heavier guitars, organ and drums. Stone repeats the affirming line “Hey ho, don’t take anymore”, ending the song on a positive note.

A Blue Flame continues to deliver music that’s meaningful, interesting and always a joy to hear. All three tracks are marvelous, and a great start to what will surely be another superb album.

Connect with A Blue Flame:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  cdbaby / iTunes

A BLUE FLAME – Album Review: “When Your Whole World Turns to Dust”

When You're Whole World Turns to Dust

British singer/songwriter Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame –tells compelling stories about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak through poetic, heartfelt lyrics and sublime melodies. And though he’s not as concerned about the music or sound of his songs as he is the lyrics, I think they sound just right. His songs reflect an eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk and rock. Plus, his smooth, clear vocals are pleasing to the ear and perfectly suit his thoughtful lyrics.

Following up on his phenomenal 2016 album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains, which I reviewed, A Blue Flame dropped When Your Whole World Turns to Dust at the end of September 2017. (he does seem to like long album titles!) He takes a somewhat darker tone on this album; many of the song lyrics are sad or bittersweet, speaking to failed relationships, regret, or disillusionment with the state of things. And yet they’re lovely to listen to and never depressing, offering glimmers of optimism and hope.

He writes all his songs and plays guitar on all the tracks. He arranges them with assistance from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson on keyboards and horns.

A Blue Flame 2

Back to the Stars” kicks things off with a languid tempo that feels rather like a sad slow dance, as a somber trumpet takes center stage. Soft tinkling of piano keys, a lightly strummed acoustic guitar and gentle snare drums complete the music. With an air of melancholy in his voice, A Blue Flame croons a message of hope and redemption: “When your whole world turns to dust. And all that you’ve known lies shattered and torn in undiluted sorrow. Look at the sky up above and know that you’re loved. Look up and know that you’re loved. And we’ll go back to the stars.”

The sad theme continues with “We Feel Like We Feel,” a beautiful but wistful song with layers of twangy strummed guitars, organ and a soft snare drum. The poignant lyrics speak to a relationship in which the feelings that once drew them together have drained away, leaving them feeling emotionally empty:  “Fleeting bittersweet memory. We found things that you can’t see. Every day we wake up wondering how the day starts. All we can feel is the cold of the steel in our hearts.” “Don’t Wait” is an uptempo pop tune with jangly guitar, piano and smooth trumpet.  A Blue Flame urges us to not waste any more time clinging to fear, self-doubt and regret, and to just “Strip off, dive in and swim.”

One of my favorites is “21st Century Blues,” a catchy song with a hook that would make Burt Bacharach proud. Tony Robinson’s bold trumpet has a starring role, with keyboards, piano and guitar adding to the great instrumental mix. The lively rock guitar riff in the bridge gives the track an extra jolt of energy.

The Future’s a Mystery” is a lovely little song about not worrying about what the future may bring, and just enjoying what we have now: “The future’s a mystery, let’s get on with living today.” A slow doo-wop beat and a beguiling trumpet are defining elements of the hopeful “A Better Way.” A Blue Flame advocates a solution for getting out of our funk: “All we need are easy days to chase the blues away. Let’s find a better way.”

One of the prettiest but also saddest tracks is “The Words Wouldn’t Form” a bittersweet song about feeling heartbroken over someone who’s left you for another. A Blue Flame’s doleful vocals convey a deep sadness as he sings: “I don’t know why I could not say goodbye. Darling I don’t know why the words wouldn’t form.” Musically the song features a gentle strummed guitar, lovely flute and xylophone, and the backing chorus is beautiful. A celtic-sounding flute and acoustic guitar are a sweet backdrop on “All We Need to Know.” The lyrics speak to the honest realization that a relationship was not going to survive. With a hint of cynicism, he admonishes us not to take life so seriously on the peppy “Everything’ s a Lie.” “There’s no need to cry when everything’s a lie. Nothing makes sense anymore. Show me the door.”

A Blue Flame rocks out on the next two tracks. “Empty Head” is a great, hard-hitting song in which he concludes that ignorance is bliss: “Nothing springs to mind. Empty head is here again.” The edgy “See What Tomorrow Brings” is terrific, incorporating touches of psychedelia and punk, and is a song David Bowie could have done. It features heavy guitars, bass and drums, and the distorted guitar riff at the end is awesome. It’s another of my favorites on the album.

The album closes on an optimistic note with “Love Will Set Us Free,” a beguiling song with a similar smooth, slow tempo as the opening track. The piano work is especially sublime, as are A Blue Flame’s vocals and the backing chorus. It’s a fitting end to a unique and wonderful album. His lyrics, music and vocals meld together perfectly, and the album’s production values and music arrangements are outstanding on every level. It all makes for a really beautiful and highly satisfying listen.

Connect with A Blue Flame:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  cdbaby / iTunes

Album Review: A BLUE FLAME – “What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains”

British singer/songwriter Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame – doesn’t consider himself a musician, but rather a compulsive writer of songs who also happens to play the guitar. For him, the song lyric is supreme, not the music or sound. On his album, What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains, he tells compelling stories using straightforward lyrics about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak. And though he’s not as concerned about the music or sound of his songs, I think they’re superb, representing an amazingly eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads and hard-driving rock.  Plus, his smooth, clear vocals perfectly suit his thoughtful lyrics.

When I asked Stone about his artistic name, he explained that ‘A Blue Flame’ just came to him, but he also liked “the balance in the name between the heat of a flame and the sadness of feeling blue. Blue flames are the hottest of all flames and they are also linked with strange, other worldly experiences like will o’ the wisps. It’s a name of contradictions between the scientific and paranormal, just like my music is a mass of contradictory influences.”  He said his songwriting has been influenced by some of the great songwriters such as Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but essentially any great song from one of any number of artists.

Stone writes all his songs and plays guitar. He arranges them with help from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson (who’s also played with the Manic Street Preachers and The Beautiful South, among other bands) on keyboards and horns.

a-blue-flame

The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and yourself – are recurring subjects in A Blue Flame’s songs. The album opens with the sublime track “When Time Slowed Down.”  The song features beautiful piano, gentle guitar and snare drum, along with a captivating trumpet solo. With a hint of sadness in his voice, Stone wistfully sings of the fleeting nature of time, and the need to stop and savor the precious moments: “When all is said and done, and we’re just words upon a page inside a book that never opens / How will we be found?  We lucked out, the year we found the days when time slowed down.

Time’s passage is again alluded to on the tracks “Our Memories Fade” and the anthemic “Everyday Yesterday,” where an upbeat melody belies a deeper meaning: “Everyday, yesterday gets further away. I was born for the ninth time, a fool amongst the fools. Running in the nighttime and breaking all the rules. Till I saw I was the dullest stone in a box of golden jewels. It was clear that I knew nothing and my promises were cruel.

Stone plaintively urges self-belief and acceptance in the bittersweet ballad “Be Kind to Yourself” – “You know that your hate is a weakness, you know that you need to be brave. You’re scared of that something inside you that cries in the night to be safe” – and in the edgy, hard-rocking “I Don’t Know,” where Stone’s raw vocals seem to channel an exasperated Billy Joel. In “Feeling the Same,” he expresses empathy for someone feeling lost and alone with their pain and self-doubt.

Faith in God is questioned in the rousing “From God on Down.” Stone defiantly proclaims “I have been here a billion years, and I am so tired. I may, I may not exist. You might believe, you may well laugh. We’re all in the dark, from God on down.”  So too with the catchy pop-rock track “Out There Somewhere.”  Love and loss are the theme of the wonderful but rather mournful doo-wop tune “The Sun Refused to Shine.” The guitar solo in the last third of the song is great.

One of my favorite tracks is “Marlborough Park Avenue,” a poignant tune that calls to mind the incredible storied lyrics and singing style of Harry Chapin. To a gorgeous arrangement with gentle percussion, violin and multi-textured guitars that swirl, twang and chime, Stone fervently sings of a lost loved one “Though you’re not here, you still hold me together. The blossom is swimming around me / I think I’m in heaven.  I wish you were walking beside me, but you’ve gone on ahead.

Another standout is the hard-hitting kiss-off “The Girl Inside of You.” As with some of the other songs on the album, the upbeat, high-energy music – complete with “sha la la la, ooh sha la la las” – contrasts sharply with the fiery lyrics. Stone practically spits the lines “Rain falls down from a cloudless sky / I look up and I wonder why / It seems strange to me / It’s a motherfucking mystery / Farewell from the boy in me, who so fell for the girl inside of you.

What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains is an album that keeps getting better with each listen, as the poetic beauty of the lyrics continues to sink in. Learn more about A Blue Flame by checking out his website. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and stream his music on Spotify and Soundcloud. His music is available for purchase on CD Baby.