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Music Review: Ready to Run by P.J. Pacifico

Music Review: ‘Ready to Run’ by P.J. Pacifico (Viper Records)Ready To Run Amazon

Musician P.J. Pacifico sounds different on his new EP release. Does the change in direction work?

Singer-songwriter P.J. Pacifico is going through some changes, as reflected in his latest release, an extended play (EP) disc entitled Ready to Run. The time he spends writing songs in Nashville is now augmented by time spent in the City of Angels. The influence of Los Angeles can be seen on the cover of Ready, which pays homage to Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky album. And Pacifico is co-writing songs with the team of Garrison Starr and AG, women who also handled the production on this release.

late-for-the-sky

Pacifico has come to terms with his status as a long-term cancer survivor (Hodgkin’s disease), a theme that runs through the five songs on the EP. And he’s gone retro, focusing on capturing the sound of the 1980s on this grouping. Does it all work? Well, let’s take a look at the songs on Ready, four of which can be seen and heard on YouTube.

“All for Something” is the first track, and it opens with the sound of a heartbeat. It sounds like a Sting recording crossed with Paul Simon during the latter’s Graceland period. Pacifico is reflective as he sings: “Baby, nothing good ever comes easy/And everybody knows it/I swear it’s all for something/If you’ll keep holding on.” The song could either be about a lost love or surviving a dreadful disease. This is a song that remains with the listener for a day or two after hearing it.

“While You Were Looking Away” is like Simon melded with Browne. The lyrics are definitely Browne-ish: “Nobody could have loved you better/It wasn’t getting any easier/Oh, I ran out of reasons to stay/While you were looking away/You don’t know what you want/You don’t want what you have/And now there ain’t no one left/You can blame me for that.” Note that Pacifico feels guilt, something that’s also true on the next track.

“Among the Living” is clearly about Pacifico’s experience with disease and his guilty feelings over having survived while others did not: “I was surviving/I want to forgive myself/For I’m among the living.” It’s a good song, but it’s marred by the heavy-handed production. There’s too much bass and Pacifico’s voice is at too low a range. “Living” would have been more effective if given a George Harrison-style arrangement. Still, Pacifico gets off a great line: “The thing that might kill you/Just might save your life.” He should know.

“I Want Your Love” is the track that’s not on YouTube, but it should be. It sounds like a Bruce Springsteen composition and production, with a bit of Ryan Adams thrown into the mix. The song closes out, quite interestingly, with Beatles-like sound effects. A very effective song, it should have been the single.

“Ready to Run” closes out the set with another overly-produced song. The sounds bury the vocal and the melody. In terms of reflecting the ’80s, this comes off as more Bryan Adams (“Run to You”) than Browne (“Running On Empty”). “Ready” would have been more memorable if delivered in a humble, pensive Browne-like style.

Ready to Run

It’s understandable that artists like to change things up, and it’s admirable that Pacifico’s taken risks on this new release. But I found there’s an overall sameness to the tracks due to the heavy, boomy production. This makes listening to this EP somewhat tiring. Make that more than somewhat.

I may well be in the minority, but I’d love to see the talented Pacifico return to the quieter guitar-based, almost folk rock sound reflected on earlier songs like “Half Wishing,” “Champions and Guardians,” and the beautiful “Lakeshore Drive.” I think Pacifico is in his natural sweet spot when he’s channeling the sound of the 1960s and ’70s.

Long-time Pacifico fans will no doubt want to pick up Ready to add to their collection. For those new to him, I’d suggest sampling his work on YouTube to see if you prefer his prior or current sound.

Recommended, with some reservations.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by a publicist.

This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/music-review-p-j-pacifico-ready-to-run-ep/

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Tell The Truth

Tell No Lies by Julie Compton

There’s a lot of buzz going around about Julie Compton’s new novel Rescuing Olivia, which will be released next month.   So we decided to go back and read Compton’s first book, Tell No Lies, published in mid-2008.   Lies is an excellent, excellent criminal justice system and family drama set in St. Louis.   The main character, Jack Hilliard, is an assistant district attorney who’s happily married; his wife is an adjunct college professor and they have two boys.   Life appears to be good for the family except that Hilliard is unfulfilled.

Suddenly everything changes at once for Jack…  Earl, the District Attorney for the City of St. Louis decides to give up his office to earn some pre-retirement riches at a prominent private law firm.   Although Jack is designated by Earl to be his successor, Jack struggles with the decision to run for the office.   Doing so will mean that Jack will need to hide or obfuscate his personal anti-death penalty views at a time when the local public is seeking blood.

Both Jack and his understanding wife Claire realize that moving from being an ADA to being the DA will turn their lives upside down…  But this is a small tremor compared to the coming earthquake that will change the ground under Jack and Claire – leaving them virtually foundation-less.   For years Jack has had a huge crush (“Can you be in love with two women at the same time?”) on the exotic Jenny Dodson, a mixed-blood civil practice attorney who turns men’s heads whenever she moves.   Jenny, in return, loves Jack but isn’t sure she wants to participate in destroying his happy marriage and contented family.

Against his better interests, Jack decides to involve Jenny as an officer in his campaign for DA which means he’ll regularly be in her company.   Jack initially believes that he can control his feelings for Jenny, but then comes to see that she’s far more than a distraction.   Jack, in fact, may love her to destruction.   Jack eventually becomes the DA who may be Jenny’s only hope when she’s charged with the murder of one of her clients.   But she had an alibi the night of the murder – one that involves Jack.   Will Jack save his marriage or Jenny?

This fantastic set-up only gets better and better and the reader will rush to get through the book, even at the cost of some sleep.   There never seems to be a wrong note in the story, and the fact that some major public figures have recently made a mess of their lives only adds credibility to this morality tale.   As with Tiger Woods, Jack comes to find that his life “is on fire and on the evening news.”   (Thank you, Paul Simon.)

Jack Hilliard is a person well liked and loved, but he’s often told that his flaw is that he feels that he must get what he wants in life.   This is a story about the high price to be paid for getting what you want.   The devil must be paid.

Compton is a former federal agency trial attorney and the language of the criminal justice professionals in Lies comes off as true in tone.   This is more of a gritty Prince of the City than homogenized Law and Order.   Tell No Lies was such an impressive début for Compton that I am quite eager to get to Rescuing Olivia.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the author.  

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