CARL CARLTON – Lights Out In Wonderland (2014)
CARL CARLTON is an American based German songwriter, musical director, producer and triple Grammy Award nominee whose credits include Robert Palmer, Eric Burdon, Herman Brood, Mink Deville, Joe Cocker and Udo Lindenberg. His just released solo album “Lights Out In Wonderland” draws on every aspect of his musical past to distill his own Classic Rock / Americana musical vision.
And if Carl primarily sees himself as a songwriter and producer, then this album persuasively taps into the best classic sounds and traditions to convince us of his ability.
Recorded at the late Levon Helm’s The Barn studio in Woodstock, Carl twists and turns a melting pot of influences to his own ends. The spirit of Helm’s musical oeuvre looms large over the proceedings and buries itself deep into Carl’s grooves, on an album that drips with a requisite rootsy tradition, but keeps one eye on commercial success.
The songs broach classic rock, funk, Americana and blues, as Carl’s self penned material and well chosen covers create a coherent whole that begs you to hit the repeat play button.
The CD opens with the unison guitar driven ‘Moonlight In New York’, an anthemic rocker pumped by a sing-along hook, extravagant strings and glistening backing vocals. It sets the standard for a beautifully crafted album that oozes feel and presence.
The funky, percussive and catchy ‘Strawberry Letter’ is full of word plays, jangling guitars and a real pop sensibility. He also surprisingly scores with an unlikely choice of Dave Davies’s ‘Strangers’, on a good example of a producer’s astute eye for detail. His expressive phrasing, fine harmony singing and a lush arrangement makes for a convincing cover of an underrated song.
It’s followed by the arresting guitar motif and handclaps on the hypnotic groove and compelling hook of ‘Invincible’, and then with the other cover on the album, Carlton drops us in the middle of a New Orleans take of Lowell George’s ‘Sailin’ Shoes’ and is able to match that with his own atmospheric country tinged ‘Mutineer’, a style he returns to later on ‘Annie’.
Better still, he’s a producer who knows the value of pacing, variety and the importance of sequencing.
He employs some husky style phrasing and gospel harmonies over a shuffle rhythm on ‘White Light’. The crystal production neatly frames resonant piano lines, a delicate organ sweep and subtle brush strokes.
Carlton then gets low-down and down-home on the funky rhythm of ‘Lucky Bet’, on another superbly arranged song full of feel and exquisite playing.
‘Lights Out In Wonderland’ combines thoughtful songwriting with spirited performances and an intuitive production that gives songs like ‘Rock And Roll Gypsies’ an emotional punch.
And just when you think he’s exhausted his musical possibilities, he signs off with ‘Jaqueline Kennedy’s Pillbox Hat’, on a glorious after-hours bluesy feel, reminiscent of a J.J. Cale meets Steely Dan with dark lyrics.
Put simply, “Lights Out In Wonderland” wears its influences on its sleeve, but just like a stick of rock, it comes stamped through with its owner’s signature.
Carl Carlton is a writer with real substance whose substantive lyrics and compelling hooks ring out loud, blending classic rock styles with class.
Very nice record.
01 – Moonlight in New York
02 – Little Men in the Radio
03 – Strawberry Letter #23
04 – Strangers
05 – Invincible
06 – Cool My Heat
07 – Sailin’ Shoes
08 – Mutineer
09 – White Light
10 – Lucky Bet
11 – Annie
12 – Rock and Roll Gypsies
13 – Variations of Jaqueline Kennedy’s Pillbox Hat
Carl Carlton – vocals, guitar
Pascal Kravetz (Jimmy Barnes) – guitar, keyboards
Yoyo Roehm – bass
Wayne P. Sheehy (Peter Gabriel) – drums, percussion
thanks to Pete Feenstra
BUY IT !