New Review of SWEAT

August 24, 2010 by  

My friend – and fellow musician – Terry Christopher posted a great review of SWEAT for Stonewall Society.  The review can be viewed here.  I have also printed it below.

by: Terry Christopher

Atlanta based and OUT singer-songwriter, Mike Rickard, has just released his Sophomore CD, Sweat, as a follow up to his successful debut CD, Stirred Not Shaken. It is clear within the first couple of songs that Mike is a thoughtful story teller weaving words together from his own life experiences and drawing from the far corners of life lessons to share musically with the world. I noticed immediately the production quality as being top-notch and that time and money were well spent in this a very solidly produced musical package. It is amazing to see how far and how good indie music makers have come and how they are standing up to the production quality of that of the big labels minus the big label expense.

The first song on the CD, Sweat, is a gem of song called “Wild Beautiful Blue.” It is very positive and uplifting in lyric content, melodic structure and musical arrangement. It is reminiscent of Sheryl Crow’s, “Soak Up The Sun” or “All I Wanna Do.” I really believe if someone came across this song or sought it out while having a bad day that they would not be able to stay in a bad mood after listening to “Wild Beautiful Blue.”

The second song on Sweat is “Anything of Nothing.” From the guitar and drum heavy intro, this song brings to mind the band, Jars of Clay. The guitar work and drum beats are driven to deliver the message of Mike’s lyric which may at first seem to be simple in the thoughts of seeking to improve oneself or ones life. The more you listen the more you get the literal and obvious intention of the lyric and song title. A really nice lyric moment is – “Doesn’t matter if I stumble, doesn’t matter if I fall, cause I’m guaranteed to fail if I do nothing at all. Some say the destination is the one and only prize. But you’ll never get there is don’t get on the ride.” I think this line can apply to many people who are often times visitors in their own lives. Mike sings of being present and owning this journey of life as not doing so is doing nothing. Again, this lyric might appear simple in thought but it is deeper as a practically applied concept.

“When The Hot Cools Down” asks the questions of a significant other where a relationship is going? Does the relationship have the staying power to endure when the shiny, new, passion filled early days start to age? Is seeing the relationship through the intention of his love? Very memorable hook in the chorus which anchors this mid–tempo, well sung song that also has a really nice, Santana-esque guitar solo in the musical interlude that feeds into a bridge that then delivers the listener back to the infectious chorus.

The fourth song on Sweat is the title track. It starts in this faded scratchy reduced sound quality style that would come from being played from an old 45. The song then jumps into a more modern, crisp sound with a hot little wawa guitar that conjures up a guitar line in the style of a James Brown song. What really stands out in this song is the lush, funky, driving beat that does seem to hijack ones body and get you moving.

The next track is the guitar heavy “Only Love.” Rickard sings of the extreme highs and lows that we have all experienced in the game of love and how it can be the best of times and the worst of times. A great reminder of this in the lyric is – “It brings out the best, it brings out the worst. One day a blessing the next it’s a curse. It doesn’t cost a thing but you know it has a price.”

“Crawling” is an introspective soul searching exploration when one feels down and out. It is likely a place where our minds have all gone to. Mike’s vocal delivery is perfectly connected in this haunting set of statements of the shortcomings of simply being human. A powerful lyric moment is – “I push myself to do, without taking time to be, my eyes are always open but I never stop to see. I’m drowning in the shallows but I’m longing for the deep.” These lyrics are both revealing and haunting.

One of the powerful ballad gems found on Rickard’s Sweat is the tender and sensitive ”This Time Last Year.” Mike sings of the universal and sometimes visceral painful life experience of going through a year of firsts after the loss of a loved one. Lyrically Mike sings – “It’s a new year of firsts, after a year full of lasts. Time keeps marching on while I am stuck here in the past.” What I think is so remarkable about Rickard’s tackling of this universal topic of loss, is how succinctly he nails this unavoidable life process right on the head and contains it musically, lyrically, in this thinner, lighter musical arrangement. Though Mike Rickard’s vocal work is clear, crisp and solid throughout his CD, Sweat, I do believe that everything aligns to make this vocally one of the most powerful songs presented on the CD. Mike’s vocal delivery is very similar to another OUT singer-songwriting pop star, George Michael as recalled on Michael’s “Kissing A Fool.” Michael set the standard for that soft, sensitive, breathy, buttery-smooth upper tenor range that is brimming with emotion and Rickard delivers the goods in much the same way on this topically and lyrically sad song.

“Just Like New” delivers one of Mike’s grittier vocal performances in an arrangement that is seeped in a southern rock style with a honky tonk stroll which opens with some great organ work. I would like to have had the organ brought out a bit more in the arrangement when it was used and also used a bit more. I also really do hope to see more of Mike’s grittier vocals delivered in future songs.

A true feel-good music offering is the ninth track on his new ten song CD, Sweat titled “Stupid Stuff Like That.” It reminds the listener of all the great aspects of being in a relationship through the various simple give and takes that help a relationship stay fresh.

The final song closing out the musical journey found on Mike Rickard’s CD, Sweat, is the beautiful ballad, “Goodnight.” “Goodnight” sings of having the last words that Mike’s muse hears at night are I Love You. The lyric offers an apology in advance and without confirmation as being necessary for anything that may have been said or done to make his love feel less than he really is during the day that is now winding down. I would hope messages such as that are not in today’s world discounted as unimportant, unnecessary, cheesy or unwanted.

Mike Rickard’s Sophomore CD, Sweat, has the singer clearly feeling good about his life as his songs reflect upbeat, uplifting and positive messages through well written, thoughtful, connective lyrics. Even when dealing with hard life issues in his songs, Rickard addresses them with a sense of respect, learning and reverence leaving out any sort of victimized, ‘why me cruel world’ sort of feeling. Mike delivers Sweat, his 10 song musical offering with finesse, polish, high quality production value and a group of supporters who connect to Mike’s musical vision as demonstrated in his expert and well-skilled musicians and production people. Indie singer-songwriters are demonstrating the how’s and why’s of making great, long, successful careers for themselves and Atlanta’s Mike Rickard is just such an indie artist who is also a star on the rise.

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