Mike Rickard’s debut, Stirred Not, Shaken showcases his ability as both a singer and a songwriter. Rickard’s voice ranges from catchy, on the poppy “Lucky,” to romantic, on the ballad “Forgot to Forget.” His lyrics may not be the most creative, but they are relatable. Whether he’s singing about his personal experiences, or sharing his thoughts on a global issue, listeners will appreciate Rickard’s sensitivity. “Home for the Holidays” captures the loneliness of not having anyone with whom to share special occasions. On “Natural,” Rickard subtly speaks on the issue of homosexuality, with the lyrics, “It’s only natural, baby/That I would fall in love with a guy like you.”
Reviewer: Gail Hoffer
Reviewer’s Rating: 7.5
Atlanta-based Mike Rickard got his early musical education singing in church and performing with contemporary Christian music vocal groups before coming into his own as a solo singer/songwriter. Not exactly a typical “pop idol” type, Mike’s positioning among young male solo talents might be compared to Shania Twain’s among her female pop star colleagues. Both Mike and Shania are more rooted in country/western’s tradition of real musicians playing real music; both offer a more down-to-earth, friendly aura as opposed to the lofty, distanced attitude of pop media stardom.
Mike’s country/western based foundation of fine, solid musicianship shows thru his pop aspirations. Additionally, fans who like a clean-cut, all-American image in their pop star will enjoy this young, strong, silent cowboy type. His debut CD is called Stirred, not Shaken, and although it does not contain much strikingly original songwriting, Mike displays an exceptionally fine, even-tempered voice, which sounds as lush and pitch-perfect at a pianissimo as it does at full throttle. Mike knows how to construct a well-balanced, viable pop hit ballad, even if his efforts are at this stage a bit generic-sounding.
To his credit, Mike has managed to hook up with the right people at the right time in his career. The technical production, song-arrangements, and especially the session musicians’ instrumental performances on his debut CD Stirred, Not Shaken are all top-notch. Most of the album’s songs are ballads of the love-lost torch variety, and are realized in an easy-listening, pop/rock/country crossover style.
I’ve seen this promising young artist perform live. His laid back, wholesome delivery of his sincere love songs is refreshing in this often superficial, image-hyped, career driven world of pop idol solo acts. Mike is also an able acoustic guitarist, confidently accompanying himself as he sings. I predict good things for this new talent who is just now coming into his own.
by Robert Urban, August 25, 2005
Mike Rickard – Stirred Not Shaken
Ok, James Bond you’re going to have to deal with it being stirred. But Mike Rickard is no secret agent of pop-rock. You’ll know him by his blessing of strong vocals, songwriting abilities, and finely tuned ear for production. He sticks to the basics of pop in his song structures throughout “Stirred Not Shaken” and while his voice is occasionally shaky (and I emphasize the ‘seldom’ portion of that) he’s able to overcome that infinitesimal lapse with imaginative compositions and well-spent time in the studio no doubt tweaking that incredibly diminutive note or effect. For the adult contemporary fans, he never rocks out too hard and maintains a steady grasp of catchiness. Laden with hooks, “Stirred Not Shaken” is an honest man’s audio therapy. And Mike, to answer your question, no I do not sleep. Also as a side note if you mistakenly go to mikerichard.com you’ll be greeted with a rather funny surprise (yes it’s relatively work-safe).
Reviews: Mike Rickard ~ Stirred Not Shaken
Artist: Mike Rickard
CD: Stirred Not Shaken
Home: Atlanta, Georgia
Quote: “Every track seduced me. I could write a full review on each one.”
By Jennifer Layton
I rarely get CDs this good. So good that I have to wonder why in the world the artist needs Indie-Music.com. These songs should already be on the radio. Mike Rickard should have been mentioned somewhere in Rolling Stone by now and should be trying to decide what to wear to the Grammys while freaking out over the fact that he has to change his cell phone number because someone hacked into Paris Hilton’s address book again. And reminding himself to return Rufus Wainwright’s phone call. And trying to remember seventeen different acceptance speeches in case he wins all seventeen of those Grammys he’s been nominated for.
That’s where he should be. And he will be. That voice is a stunner. Rickard wisely kicks off the CD with a song that lets his voice command full and immediate attention. “Lucky” begins with a far-off, echoed electronic sound as the only instrumentation, allowing the lyric “It’s not how I planned it, it’s not how I dreamed” to burst with full yearning force from the speakers. The song is perfectly crafted, with that electronic sound pulsing all the way through while the full band energy rises up around it. This is a catchy, rolling tempo with pop hooks. I got reeled right in. To top it off, the lyrics carry a positive message to help the song soar even higher. The refrain is simply “When I imagine what could have been, I feel lucky.”
Each song has character. Lush production, unabashed honesty, and in a few cases, a good old-fashioned clever twist. Case in point: “Home For the Holidays” is a bluesy song about actually being home for the holidays. His home. By himself. The warmth of the music keeps the song from wallowing in misery, so instead of getting depressed, I simply connect and flow with it. He mentions a few holidays, but he’s smart to start off with Valentine’s Day. Just about everyone has been there. (I can top him, though. Try being single and waiting tables in a nice restaurant on Valentine’s Day. If you were one of the happy couples whose food I spat on before serving, I am truly, truly sorry.)
Wonderful lyrics kept leaping out at me. In the piano-driven ballad “Forgot to Forget,” he’s watching an old movie, “the one that used to make me laugh because it made you cry.” And he can crank the temp right up to steamy when he’s in the mood. From “Everything You Need”:
When you seek the arms of pleasure
I know what to do
I’ll be your rhythm baby
When you just can’t shake the blues …
Every track seduced me. I could write a full review on each one. I definitely hear Rickard’s George Michael influence in “Do You Know,” which sounds like a homage to Michael’s “Kissing a Fool.” I also loved the hypnotic unfolding of the story of two lonely strangers meeting in a bar in “I Might Not Remember.” I feel the animal attraction in the dance beat of “Natural.” I feel like I’m standing in the middle of every song.
The last two tracks deserve special attention. I’m always impressed by artists who can sing spiritual songs without preaching. In “Who I Am” and “As If To Say,” Rickard pours his soul out without the melodrama. He’s intense and passionate. And while the latter track is a deep, honest prayer set to music, it’s beautifully humble. He’s not preaching, he’s reaching. Whether his songs are secular or spiritual, Rickard is always stretching up on his tiptoes, trying to see the truth just over that mountain of worries and fears and insecurities.
I love this album so much, I’ll buy a copy for one of our readers this month. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for it, and I’ll pick one of the emails at random and have a copy sent to you from CDBaby.
Yeah, he’s that good. I just hope he remembers this review when he gets famous. I want him to introduce me to Rufus Wainwright.
A soul ‘Stirred Not Shaken’
Atlanta singer Mike Rickard calls on personal past to delve into mysteries of love and faith on moving debut CD.
GAY singer-songwriter Mike Rickard is a man on a mission to reach new fans. He performs at the Atlanta Pride festival for the first time this weekend and at Red Light Café on June 28.
“Stirred Not Shaken” is Rickard’s debut collection of 11 melancholy songs that movingly probe into themes of love and faith. It is available through several online music sites.
“I think my music and my writing, even when I don’t address [being gay] very much, come from the perspective of being a gay man,” Rickard says.
The CD kicks off with the slightly up-tempo track “Lucky,” in which Rickard finds himself at peace after a lifetime of unhappiness.
“And I feel peace / Like I’ve never known, / I’m happy where I am / I’ve come into my own.”
Following the optimistic opening tune, the majority of “Stirred” goes downbeat. Listeners must dig in their heels and be patient with the CD’s restrained pace in order to discover Rickard’s observations on relationships gleaned from a life in search of personal authenticity.
In “Everything You Need,” Rickard sings “When you’re feeling strong / I’ll let you lead the way / But if you ever fall behind / I’m gonna bide my time and wait.”
“Even though it’s not spelled out as being gay, it deals with the push and pull of a relationship, the times you need to be there for the other person, and the times you also need to give it up and let somebody be there for you,” Rickard says.
Rickard says the gay sensibility of songs including “Everything You Need” and the dance-tinged “Natural” should find a special place in listeners’ hearts.
When Rickard moved to Atlanta from Augusta, Ga. 11 years ago, he left behind a life of performing that was steeped in the sounds of contemporary Christian music. But after the relocation, he took a sabbatical from music, choosing to focus on a different career path and taking time to reevaluate his beliefs.
Rickard’s long period of soul-searching helped him to come to terms with his spirituality and his identity as a gay man. In 1999, he returned to music and began writing the songs that would eventually appear on “Stirred Not Shaken.”
Songs like “Who I Am” and “As If to Say” address spiritual, but not religious, issues that many gay listeners should easily relate to, Rickard says.
“‘Who I Am’ is a confrontation between where I am now and what I was raised to believe,” he says. “‘As If to Say’ is really kind of a prayer that’s not so much a churchy song but what I’d like my life to be known as and what it would stand for.”
Rickard’s pleasant voice throughout “Stirred Not Shaken” bears a slight resemblance to that of contemporary Christian singer Wayne Watson. It’s an instrument that delivers Rickard’s emotions in an honest, plaintive fashion.
His lyrics are unquestionably the CD’s strong point. The words are candid and confessional in the tradition of the best singer-songwriters.
“Stirred Not Shaken” picks up the pace at tracks 9 and 10, but it could greatly benefit from more lively numbers early on to offset its sadder emotional moments.
Nevertheless, Rickard is generous in sharing his personal lows along with his highs. That kind of songwriting can’t be easy to lay bare to the public, but it deftly mirrors the way real lives actually can be.
“Stirred Not Shaken”/ Mike Rickard (www.mikerickard.com) – Mike Rickard comes from that great school of singer/songwriter who specializes in pop hooks, not coffeehouse musings. And on his solo debut, “Stirred Not Shaken,” Rickard uses that talent – along with a Kenny Loggins comfort food-type warmth and sincerity – to explore the simple truths and all aspects of a relationship, from first glimpse at a bar and the quiet joy of a new love to the rocky paths we invariably find ourselves stumbling upon.
Although this is one of those rare discs where the shuffle feature on your CD (or iPod) wouldn’t disappoint in its selection, the set does feature a number of outstanding tracks: The heartbreaking Home For the Holidays; the award-winning Forgot to Forget, a country-tinged sappy tearjerker that you’ll enjoy anyway, right down to Rickard ’s little twist at the end; the jazz-inflected Do You Know?, which is a frank missive from a son to the father who abandoned him when he was three; and the commitment ceremony-ready love song Forever Ran Out of Time. It may have been released last year, but I’m naming “Stirred Not Shaken” one of my 10 best of the 2005. (****)
Stirred not Shaken
Stirred not Shaken, Mike Rickard’s stunning debut CD, marks the arrival of a great talent. A potent mix of styles blending Pop, Jazz, Rock and Country the emotionally stirring music travels the inner workings of the human soul, sparking reactions to issues both social and spiritual. Firmly grounded in a strong sense of self the opening selection, “Lucky,” hooks listeners with acoustic and electronic elements supporting the singer’s richly textured vocals.
Powerful even at its most understated moments, Mike Rickard’s persuasive presence helps to convey the messages of loneliness and despair present in “Home for the Holiday,” “I Might not Remember” and the bittersweet ballad “Forgot to Forget,” while the tender delivery of “Do You Know” barely hides the pain found just under the lyrics’ surface. And although the animalistic intensity of the aggressively upbeat “Natural” celebrates queer attraction, the most outspoken track on Stirred not Shaken is the self-aware and complex “Who I Am,” a prelude to the album-closing meditative prayer “As if to Say.”
A bold album that’s well worth the listen, Stirred not Shaken from Mike Rickard (www.mikerickard.com) is available in stores, on-line or by calling 1-800-BUY-MY-CD.
Artist: Mike Rickard
Album: Stirred, Not Shaken
Stirred, Not Shaken
Stirred, Not Shaken, definately describes Mike Rickard from Atlanta, GA to the very last note. Mike is an accomplished singer/songwriter on the verge of great things due to his personal determination to succeed and his undeniable talent.
After listening to Stirred, Not Shaken, I have concluded that this is definiately a relationship record with Mike openly exposing his heart and soul, sharing the highs and lows of relationships without being overly syrupy or depressing.
Stirred, Not Shaken has some interesting and personal moment of execptional Pop music making, for instance “Everything You Need” an uptempo song about what your heart will go through to be with the one you love. “Forgot To Forget” expresses the realization of letting go of a loved one. The jazzy “Do You Know” (which is my personal favorite) is a song about his relationship with his father. Mike’s uptempo songs are pleasing but it’s in the ballad department that Rickard is flawless and at his most sincere, just take a listen to “Forever Ran Out Of Time”, “I Might Not Remember” and As If To Say.
Mike Rickard’s Stirred, Not Shaken is a sophisicated Pop masterpiece that is sure to evoke your emotions.
© 2004 and 2005 Evolution of Media Entertainment
“Stirred Not Shaken” by Mike Rickard
by Alan Ilagan
EDGE Music Critic
Friday May 14, 2004
“Stirred Not Shaken” by Mike Rickard
Ladies and gentleman, the pop throne long-ago abdicated by George Michael has finally found a worthy candidate as successor in the vocal prowess and songwriting talents of Mike Rickard. His debut CD, Stirred Not Shaken, has the fresh energy of Michael’s Faith album, and none of the latter’s recent maudlin muck. At first it may seem an odd transfer of pop power ~ George Michael played with more overtly sexual themes (albeit as a fake playing-it-straight ladies man) whereas Rickard’s background of Christian church vocal groups lends a religious fervor to his work, and while Michael was dragged out of the closet long after he hit it big (and sales dwindled), Rickard is quietly but openly gay ~ but the change-of-guard makes sense when one looks at the various ways faith comes to play in the songs of both, along with the pure pop pleasure both reveal when at their best.
Stirred Not Shaken is a slickly-produced “grower” album, revealing itself slowly over repeated listening, and these are usually the ones that stand the test of time. While it’s too soon to definitively crown Rickard as the new Prince of Pop (and his style is still too blissfully raw to warrant the moniker), he has made an admirable bid for the position. Along with a genuine humility and down-to-earth image, Rickard is at odds with the current turbulent musical landscape, but this sort of album may be just what is needed to return the focus to actual self-penned music.
The album opens with “Lucky”, a funky folk-rock song with elements of electronica and a deliciously meandering bass-line. For those weary of his Christian background, have no fear ~ this sounds nothing like the contemporary Christian music you know and loathe. “Home for the Holidays” offers a lyrical tick-list of all the holidays spent alone, but Rickard manages to find an undertow of hope in the midst of despair and loneliness.
It is this lyrical proficiency that carries the weaker moments of the album, such as “Forgot to Forget”. There are some clever words, but the music borders on country schmaltz. The same goes for “Forever Ran Out of Time”. Rickard’s voice, literally and lyrically, is far better suited to the breezy “Do You Know?” in which his vocal caresses sound uncannily like vintage George Michael, possibly even surpassing him in delicacy. Though the song is written for Rickard’s father, it could also be a lost lover’s query ~ a heartbreaking double entendre that will have armchair psychologists nodding their heads knowingly.
The thread of loneliness continues in “I Might Not Remember”, which might very well be the thinking gay man’s lonely bar anthem (as well as a not-so-subtle ad for Cuervo Gold). Here Rickard espouses all of the one-night-stands who have melted into forgotten memory, imbuing the tale with subtle shades of ambivalence and regret.
During the mid-section of the album things start to sound a little over-produced, and the very cohesiveness of the sound runs the risk of repetition, but Rickard still manages to give each song a distinctive slant, mostly due to his delivery and vocal diversity. He even gets into the dance groove with the ripe-and-ready-for-remixing cut “Natural”. At first it sounds slightly out of place on this rather organic album, but soon it makes sense.
“Natural” is the proclamation and unabashed shout of pride that we’ve been waiting for, ending with the simply-but-powerfully-put line, “It’s only natural that I would fall in love with a guy like you.” It sets the stage for the album’s pinnacle and centerpiece, “Who I Am.” A quest for self-improvement and ultimately self-acceptance and salvation, it is a direct confrontation with his faith and beliefs. The musical battle-cry builds and builds before climaxing with driving guitars and gospel abandon, perfectly matching the intensity of the lyrics (which happen to contain one of the funnier lines of the entire album, “I’m schizophrenic/ And so am I.”)
Following the confessional of “Who I Am”, Rickard offers a closing ballad of poignant beauty ~ a love letter and prayer to God. Lest anyone fear a return to religion, this cut is more about one man’s spiritual journey and search for meaning, while humbly acknowledging that greater powers are at work. “Let me live as if to say/ Love is all that lasts,” he sings ~ a final stance of defiance, yet sung gently and peacefully, demanding the right to love with the grace and voice of an angel.
The album deals with bigger issues like love and loss by taking the mundane and transforming it into the miraculous. Scenes and tales of everyday life are conjured and conveyed, the deeper meanings of which are there for the thoughtful listener. Rickard has created and composed some riveting and rapturous work here. Stirred Not Shaken, with its glorious melodies and insightful lyrics, will leave you moved and mesmerized, courtesy of one man’s exhilarating musical journey.
Alan Bennett Ilagan is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Instinct, xy magazine, Q Northeast, the Windy City Times, and various on-line publications. A collection of his work can be found at http://www.alanilagan.com. Currently he divides his time between Boston and his home in upstate NY, where he lives with his partner Andy.
CD REVIEW: Mike Rickard – “stirred, not shaken”
By Stacey Board – 01/11/05 – 07:05 PM EST
When I heard the first part of Rickard’s first song I thought, “OK, polished production, smooth expressive voice” and I was pleased. Then I really began to listen and read through the lyrics and realized there was more depth here than I expected.
Rickard’s voice is very rich and the production is very slick and modern and would stand up next to anything currently on the radio. But the lyrics and Rickard’s point of view are more original than you might find there.
“Natural” is one of my favorites. It has a great energy and groove, and a wonderful storyline with a punch at the end. And you can dance to it. I also like “Who I Am” because it does a very good job of expressing all the confusion, exploration and questioning that we all do with the big issues in our life as we grow.
Rickard does a good job of expressing himself in a unique voice while wrapping it in a very accessible melodic package.