Album Review: Steve Candlen and Malcolm Burn’s “Shine On”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Releasing Shine On earlier this year, Steve Candlen, alongside producer, Malcolm Burn, have crafted a record that pays homage to classic folk albums of yesteryear. In just seven songs, Candlen demonstrates to new and old fans alike the power and ability he has with vocal melodies.
A singer-songwriter vibe instantly serves as introduction to the record in “Brave New World.” With the blending of piano, guitar, bass, and various drums and percussion, it’s an immediate callback to classic folk records of 1970’s done with a modern twist and production aesthetics. One thing’s always been true for Candlen: he can crank out memorable melodies that tell a vivid story. This song is no exception – the choruses are infectious. What’s especially interesting, is the unresolved nature of the song’s conclusion. It leaves listeners wanting a final bit that never comes.
Being a piano-driven tune, “Long Train Home,” track two, features more of that smooth vocal styling. Plodding along at a deliberate nature, this author could easily picture the story of a boxcar rider with no ties; nothing holds them to any time, place, or person. As the song develops, more instrumentation is added to fill out the song. It’s a great sign of the arrangement skills that are prominent on this record. I really enjoy the rotary effect used during the latter half of the tune.
Extremely Beatles-esque, the percussion really helps drive the next song, “Blue Love,” forward. As the vocals enter, it turns into more of a song reminiscent of Cat Stevens’ material during his famous Teaser and the Firecat era. This is not a knock – it’s perhaps one of my favorite records from that time. The major-minor chord progression really drives the nostalgic feeling home. It’s nice to hear Steve explore a different facet of his voice – this melody is far more intense, and less airy than the previous two selections. There’s another song on the album, “Moths,” track six, that has a similar artistic feel to it. An incredibly peaceful tune, “Moths” begins with a nice piano, guitar, and bass figure; there’s great interplay here. The string synths really fill out the arrangement as the song progresses, and the relentless sleigh bell pattern really drives the airy and lightness of the tune home.
Opening with a simple and laidback acoustic chord progression, “Sweet Dreams,” track four, gives itself a lot of room to demonstrate the dynamic nature of Candlen’s voice. The detuned instrumentation in the back of the mix really add to the dreamy and happy-laziness vibe of the track. There are points during the song where his voice soars in ways I didn’t expect – fantastic vocal production. One thing that pleasantly took my ears by surprise was the use of a major III chord during the bridge. Using chords outside of the scale really help to raise the dramatic nature of a piece, and it’s placed in the perfect spot in this song.
The title track of the record is far more electric than any other offering thus far. Double tracked vocals give a bit of a psychedelic flavor. This is a fun tune that is further enhanced by gang-vocals that remind this particular author of bands from the late-1960’s.
Featuring a strong, albeit minimalist piano part, the closing track, “Then, There Was You” is one rife with gratitude. Once again, sleigh bells are utilized in an effective manner. Whoever the narrator of the song is discussing, it’s clear to any listener that they’ve been through hard times to say the least. Despite that, these hardships have been greatly softened and rectified by the presence of another in their life. A love song that could take on many meanings, it’s a great way to end the album.
Shine On is a fantastic collection of tunes through-and-through. Combining old singer-songwriter vibes with modern day production values, the album is a really enjoyable listen. You can support the artist directly at SteveCandlen.com and purchasing the record.