Joe Macre 2021
No crackin’ up for a down-to-earth trip: veteran bassist embarks on a most accomplished solo venture.
Without Joe Macre CRACK THE SKY could never be as cinematic as they were, yet Joe Macre didn’t need his former ensemble to compose music for “Monster-in-Law” and a few other films – still, neither the American player’s collective experience nor individual endeavors can prepare the listener for what’s going on here, on the artist’s first proper album under his own name. While the sonic imagery of “Bullet Train” is as picturesque as anything the bassist came up with before, it’s different: where an aficionado will expect celestial landscapes, Macre lands a mundane punch that’s possessed with the same romantic spirit – think Wyatt from “Easy Rider” taking Snow White for a night on the town. There’s blues where blue skies used to be on this record, a change to strike a chord for many a listener now.
And the chord would often be familiar – familial even. As if not to severe his ties with prog for good, Joe not only repurposes “Safety In Numbers” for the fresh context, nuancing the epic’s belligerence and stripping it of bombast – and positioning the song between an ethereal take on Scarecrow’s “If I Only Had Brain” and a cover of Mary Hopkin’s “If I Only Had Brain” to let the album’s finale bare his soft underbelly – but also invites old friends for a new bout of fun. He commandeers the drums on the couple of tracks they grace and has John Palumbo singing, swinging and shuffling on the harp-honed and slider-soiled “At The Roadhouse” – written especially for Macre – and Rick Witkowski pouring liquid licks into the organ-oiled “Bring On The Night” whose streamlined rhythm and heavy riffs are quite catchy, yet the less sophisticated the drift is the better these cuts fare.
As Vince Guarnere comes to the fore to deliver the hard-rocking “Drag It Down” and allow Joe to powerfully pluck his four strings and Pete Hewlett’s vocals propel “Diesel Locomotive” to paradise for the band leader to handle most of the instruments, delights pile up, but it’s the Macre-voiced rage of “Slow Ryder” and an unhurried swirl of “You Can’t Take It With You” that are the best cuts on offer – one a groovy arena anthem with guitar heroics attached, the other a finger-poppin’ slice of boogie able to elicit a singalong from the gloomiest of punters. And if such a buzzkill won’t smile hearing “That’s Summer” which is sunny and warm, they deserve to get thrown under the bullet train.