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The Belle Brigade
The Belle Brigade

Review By Derek va Veen


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 Mac.

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 love.

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.




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