Thursday, July 26, 2012

Smartest Man in the Room reviewed by Steve Jones

Smartest Man in the Room
Paul Mark & the Van Dorens
Radiation Records
12 tracks

Manhattan-based Paul Mark is quite the controversial artist.  He gives us a bluesy rock album, his ninth offering, which he co-produced with Jeff Powell (who also produced Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King and others) on Paul’s own indie label.

Taken casually at face value on this CD, we get an apocalyptic man who is at odds with religion and society  The nuances here are not religious intolerance (that’s not to say Mark is also not perhaps commenting on religion and our culture) but an intolerance for a record industry managed by god like moguls who feed the public crap and the public is glad about it and trained to beg for more and more.  He uses god and the devil to represent  an industry that creates Justin Biebers and Lady Gagas for us and jam them down our throats and we just wait joyfully for the next wave of the same or gobble up the next instant star created for us on the myriad of TV shows  who promote a lack of hard work and experience being required to “make it.”

“When God Finds the Time”  is a nifty tune with some telling lyrics.  He alludes that musicians are reduced to a bunch of headshots begging for a chance while the gods of the industry appear at things like the Kentucky Derby for show and then return to their lofty day to day unapproachable status.  The title track gives us the industry mogul point of view, because, after all, they are the smartest men in the room because fear, money and power rule.  “One More Coat of Paint”  gives us the story of foreclosure and lost love– it will only take one coat of paint to hide the blemishes of a broken home and a broken relationship.  “Wrist Rocket”  is a grooving’ and fiery instrumental with some rapid fire and well-done guitar and organ with some take off on the mid-60’s “Big Spender” and other tunes.  “Time Will Tell” let’s us know the truth eventually gets out and it is just a great little shuffle.  This and the rest are all great cuts.

This CD is a great commentary and a really good set of tunes.  Recorded in New Orleans and Memphis, it is quite raw and real.  While it’s dark and down on the industry, it’s also done with sarcasm and humor.  If you like tunes that tell a consistent story with some driving guitar and rough sandpaper grit vocals, then this CD is for you,  It’s a great way for Marks’ fans to enjoy his work and for neophytes to get familiar with him, too!

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