When I first heard
The Belle Brigade after my wife downloaded it (legally), I was quite prepared to
dislike the album. With an indie spin on soft-rock / folk-rock, the album
hearkens back to the late 1970s with a very California-esque flavor. Siblings
Ethan and Barbara Gruska have recorded an album that owes a lot to the strains
of Kenny Loggins, Paul Simon and most notably and stylistically Fleetwood Mac.
Given that they are from Southern California and are artists on Reprise
Records (who also feature Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac in their stable),
this might not be so surprising.
Disclaimer: I have never been a fan of Fleetwood
Being a dutiful and supportive husband, I decided
to pick up the LP for my wife so she could listen to it on the ‘good' stereo
system. After repeated exposure – first as a second-hand consumer as my wife
listened, and then more and more under my own volition – this album has grown
on me. Ethan and Barbara trade off vocals and interweave their voices on
sweet, but not saccharine harmonies, the backing band they've assembled is
nice and tight and all the songs are eminently listenable." Lucky Guy" is my
choice for the most-likely song on this album to either (a) become a summertime
hit single or (b) end up as montage music in a Hollywood buddy flick. Vocally
and stylistically it is very reminiscent of Kenny Loggins (circa Caddyshack),
and is difficult not to sing along to. "Lonely Lonely" is noteworthy for
its Lindsey Buckingham flavored guitar riff and also contains a good sing-along chorus. Other
stand-out tracks include "Losers", a song dedicated to knowing yourself and
ignoring the opinions of others, "Rusted Wheel" a love song that uses a
train as a metaphor for passion and "Sweet Louise", a paean to unrequited
The recording on Reprise is above average with
good soundscaping, tonality and a decent dynamic range. My only nitpick is that
there is a pronounced tendency, especially on Barbara Gruska's vocals, towards
sibilance. This is less in evidence on the download which indicate that there
may be some slight deficiencies in the pressing. However, the vinyl is flat and
the hole is centered, which sadly, seems to be a lot to ask these days with LPs.
But I still don't like Fleetwood Mac. That is
just too much to ask.