Matt Moran's Contraband is really just the multi-instrumentalist Moran with a little help from Mark Workley who provided the drum tracks. Maybe the "Contraband" is supposed to be ironic. Either way, Moran, who started out playing sax, has now released his third album, "Operation Groove."
The album opens with "Prelude To Do It Again" which sounds a bit like mood
music from one of the spaghetti westerns. Definitely not blues, although it really is a prelude to "Do It Again" which jumps straight in afterwards. Again, it is not blues, and the vocals sound a bit like Edwyn Collins, although the tune does not! This sets the tone for about half the album, consisting of more pop-oriented songs. Some of them have their moments, but most of them are largely forgettable.
The other half of the album (the two halves are pretty much interwoven in terms of track order) is dominated by a jazz feel. These tunes are generally much stronger, and Moran seems to be much more comfortable playing jazz, and saxophone in particular. Tunes like "Mary Jane," for example, with its bossa nova style beat are actually quite good. The only trouble is that such tunes are few and far between. There are some
promising moments on tracks like "Serenity," which starts out as a good idea with some nice guitar, delivering a simple relaxed refrain, but then never goes anywhere.
"Operation Groove" sounds like a collection of largely half formulated ideas, which then get repeated ad nauseam to fill three minutes or so. When this is coupled with the disparate musical styles on show, it makes it very hard to see who the album is aimed at. Given that the stronger (and better) moments on the album come from the more jazzy material, however, maybe Moran could forge a brighter future by ploughing that furrow.
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