KURT MICHAELS – Stones From The Garden

Melodic Revolution 2023

Outer-space noise from Illinois as captured by a down-to-earth philosopher who observerves the movement of celestial and human bodies and psyches.

Stones From The Garden

Not that this Chicagoan chanteur exists in the shadows, yet Kurt Michaels has been lurking in obscurity since 2011 until deciding to mark two-decade anniversary of his full-length debut by deliveringthe artist’s fourth album which started to take shape back in 2016 and took seven years to get finished and polished – and it should show. And not that it would show right away, as the pieces forming “Stones From The Garden” seem to represent much more cosmic matters than their deceptively mundane titles may suggest, the platter’s tentative zen simultaneously undermined by space rock they radiate and anchored by the ecology-friendly packaging the disc’s shrouded in. So there’s an arresting philosophical marriage of a wide-eyed wonder and healthy cynicism to latch on and savor – even though the moment of truth of the record’s first seven lyrics-filled numbers is revealed in the epic all-instrumental finale where the preceding tumult of words will be thrown into celestial orbit.

Elevating Kurt’s songs up there are stellar female voices which soften the mighty twang of his “Telstar”-channeling guitar and theatrical vocals on the organ-steamed opener “Trouble” before this piece lapses into reggae – but, ultimately, it’s Michaels’ tunes and playing that land an emotional blow and keep the listener focused. So while Amanda Lehmann’s pipes support his – together with Cory Hance’s on the lavishly orchestrated and harmonically honeyed drama of “I’m In Love With That Dream” and with Annie Carlson’s on the anxious pop sheen of “Relax” – to give profound soulfulness to the flow, the worrisome, albeit infectious, ripples of feelings feeding the sonically outlandish “Why Must Life Be Such A Fight” emerge from the composer’s heart and fingertips. His memories and reveries let the punchy “Forever” meld slider roll to sharpened riffs to shine a light on the multicolored ’80s-patented patina, and allow the sentimental “Happiness” soar to the skies, reaching for “Will I Ever Pass This Way Again” – the Beatles-esque bliss anchored by Billy Sherwood’s earth-shattering bass.

Still, if all this is too lyrics-heavy, “The Road Beyond” is devoid of voice – save for a spoken word to close the platter’s door: filled to the brim with a pure miracle of tune, the expansive, sometimes exotic piece pulls in those who made it to the album’s end to reward them with cathartic waves of acoustic and electric lines that must change one’s perspective of Kurt Michaels as a performer possessed with many techniques which carry his psychedelic message through ether.


September 6, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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