Fred Moolten,
The Way We Are
(Great Gull, 2000)

In order to be completely fair, Fred Moolten's debut CD needs to be broken into two reviews -- Miami and New Orleans. Three songs, "I've Got Peace and Quiet," "Coming to the Valley" and "Expedition Rag," were produced in New Orleans. The remaining songs were produced in Miami.

The Miami-produced songs do not come across well at all. The instrumentals are adequate, but the singers detract to a point of annoyance. Bryan Harden sings vocals on six songs -- that's six songs too many. His forced voice sounds like a monotone Barry Manilow and leaves the impression of Will Ferrell's singing on Saturday Night Live. Try out "Night Song" or "A Woman's Walk" and listen for yourself. If his use of pushed consonants and warbling syllables is intended to be comedic, then he succeeds. Otherwise, it's a very poor performance.

Michelle Amato's voice is just as weak, but she has the unfortunate pole position of first track with the horrendous song "It Ain't Rock." Warning: avoid this song at all costs. It is horrendous; it took me three tries to listen to the entire song. It sure ain't rock, but it sure is annoying.

While the Miami-produced songs come across as weak, the New Orleans songs are pretty good. "Coming to the Valley" is a toe-tapping secular gospel tune. "Expedition Rag" is a mechanical (but still enjoyable) Dixieland ditty.

The best song of the album is undeniably the blues tune "I've Got Peace and Quiet." Juanita Brooks utilizes an excellent fussy vocal style that is greatly complemented by the blues harp and the saxophone. The lyrics and pace of the song are textbook blues -- and I ain't complaining.

Although the musical styles shoot across the board, there is one constant: the music is written and produced by Fred Moolten. The lyrics are decent, but his potential lies in instrumental music. The tune of "Night Love" has a slow pace reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti. Trumpets crescendo with a nightclub-esque drum background. (If only my CD player had a filter to take the vocals out of that song.) The instrumental track, "Waltz in D Flat," is a rare but pleasant use of a flute.

For the most part, think of this CD in terms of vacationing. If it's New Orleans (tracks 7,8 & 9), go ahead and visit -- you'll have a fun time. As for Miami (the remainder of the album), I would save myself the trip.

[ by C. Nathan Coyle ]
Rambles: 1 December 2001

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