Rob Murat - So Much to Say (2008)

Rob Murat
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In the brave new musical world of 2008, there are more chances than ever to be surprised when the mail comes in.  An abounding new generation of talented artists has arrived, under the radar of broadcast radio and USA Today.  And just as a reviewer can be disappointed (even depressed) by the fiftieth album of 70s soul remakes by an aging star, one can be equally blown away when the post office brings a CD by a new artist showing the kind of left-field creativity and musical vision that gets even cynical music observers excited all over again.  Fortunately, NY-based newcomer Rob Murat falls into the latter category with his debut album, So Much To Say.

In the brave new musical world of 2008, there are more chances than ever to be surprised when the mail comes in.  An abounding new generation of talented artists has arrived, under the radar of broadcast radio and USA Today.  And just as a reviewer can be disappointed (even depressed) by the fiftieth album of 70s soul remakes by an aging star, one can be equally blown away when the post office brings a CD by a new artist showing the kind of left-field creativity and musical vision that gets even cynical music observers excited all over again.  Fortunately, NY-based newcomer Rob Murat falls into the latter category with his debut album, So Much To Say.

A fragile-voice blend of Lionel Richie and Vinx, Murat really shows his chops as a musician and producer on So Much To Say.  His mash-up of an opener, "Dilemma," is pure bliss.  Sounding like a sobered-up outtake from Amy Winehouse's Back In Black, the track finds Murat the prototypical bachelor, deciding between his love of freedom and his love of his woman, while a hot, retro-soul arrangement pounds an incessantly infectious beat behind his story.  While his lyricism is a bit rough, Murat continues a similar theme through much of the marvelous first half of the album, sometimes full of bravado, sometimes self-deprecating (such as on "Mr. Soulman," when the woman Murat is relentlessly hitting on finally dismisses him by saying "Man, I need a vodka and cranberry and a Red Bull...").  Throughout these songs, Murat adds just the right touches: from a tuba underpinning on "Ready to Love" to the organ and trumpet-led midtempo, "Daytime High."

The radio-ready "Celebrate" is pivotal song on the album, not just because the irresistible, Marley-like track is perhaps the most accessible, but also because it serves as a bridge to a surprising second half.  After taking listeners on a great musical whirlwind early on, Murat moves into a mildly head-scratching, pop-oriented collection of ballads (broken up only by the rock-oriented social commentary track, "One Day"), beginning and ending with dead-on Richie-like piano ballads, "Something Magical" and "Born Again."  In his defense, Murat generally handles them well, keeping the arrangements interesting on such tracks as the fine "Until Its Over" and the call-and-response "So Much to Say."  But they do serve to break up and conventionalize and album that is otherwise marvelous in its defiance of the typical.

But despite the ever-so-slight lag in the latter half of the disc, on So Much To Say Rob Murat shows he's the real thing, with both top-notch songwriting skills and a great sense of production.  That combination makes this album absolutely memorable and one of the most enjoyable debuts - make that one of the most enjoyable albums by any artist - of the season. Highly recommended.

 

By Chris Rizik

 
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