John Dyer,
(Paper Trumpet, 2004)

John Dyer's CD GoStayPlay is as loaded with walls of sound as an early Phil Spector production. The artist uses multiple layers of the instruments and electronic sounds, allowing his reedy, high voice to float sometimes above and sometimes within the sound patterns. The result is as frequently jarring as it is effective.

"Air time," the opening number, is a beautiful ballad that builds a hopeful and optimistic mood as Dyer sings about ways to carry on when things get tough. Then, at a crucial moment in the song, a whirling, atonal synthesized electronic wail comes in that, I assume, is meant to act as a counter melody. However, it caused me to wonder what, exactly, Dyer was doing. Rather than drawing me more deeply into the song, it jerked me out of it, forcing my concentration onto the technique instead of the totality. The same is true of other songs. Dyer's experiments with arrangements call too much attention to themselves. Rather than extend the arrangements, these intrusions wreck them.

When Dyer relaxes with a song -- as he does in his tribute to Nick Drake, "Nick" -- he creates moments of beauty, but those moments don't come often enough. For my tastes, too much of GoStayPlay is overarranged and overproduced, as if Dyer does not trust the songs themselves. At this point in his career, he seems to be more interested in sonic impressions.

Those listeners who share his interests will enjoy this CD. Frankly, I don't and didn't.

by Michael Scott Cain
30 June 2007

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