The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
DONNIE VIE THE WHITE ALBUM REVIEW 2014

 

DONNIE VIE - THE WHITE ALBUM

LIVEWIRE/CARGO RECORDS

DECEMBER 1 2014

 

 

In the press release for the gloriously ramshackle and yet thoroughly indispensable affair that was Donnie Vie’s ‘goodbye’ to Enuff Z’Nuff, the appropriately titled ‘Goodbye Enuff Z’Nuff’ there was already mention of an album of new material titled ‘The White Album’. Now a name like that immediately brings to mind Vie’s muse The Beatles whose  1968 release took the vast symphony they had given us on Sargent Peppers and upped the ante to bring us rock and roll that morphed to incorporate everything from folk, blues, soul, classical, country, psychedelia and even Eastern influences. It was also of course the band’s greatest experimentation.


As an artist Donnie Vie is one of those writers who has never disappointed either with his work in Enuff Z’Nuff or solo and so to name an album such seemed to indicate that this would seek to explore similar boundaries, however it doesn’t at all. This is still Donnie Vie, still quality. But aside from a few tracks which look towards other genres it doesn’t push any musical boundaries. Vie of course has nothing to prove and fans will not be disappointed by the 19 tracks here.   


So to the album which at 19 tracks long at times does seem (just like The Beatles’ White album did) a little over long. It’s a great ride though and one you will keep coming back to. Opening with one of the more unexpected tracks - ‘I Wanna Do It To You’ is sheer funky goodness and just the sort of unexpected start that immediately hints that this may be a little different. It’s the sort of clean white funk that artists like Jamiroquai have tried for years to master and here Donnie just eases in to create a classic groove with a laid back groove and sweet falsetto.


There’s a low key swirl the ‘Handy Dandy’ that follows, augmented by some sweet backing vocals and background guitar but it’s all about the vocals here as Vie lays back and drifts through a low-key classic; before ‘For Your Pleasure’ floats out of the speakers, and smothers you in its softer charms. It’s the sort of song that just envelops the listener.


There’s a swing to ‘Happy Days’ that adds a quirkiness and a lilting pop feel as the song builds on sweet backing vocals to expose the soul of The Kinks. ‘Crash and Burn’ starts with atmospheric guitar and drifting vocal that slides across the music before a brooding feeling adds a sense of impending disaster.  So far, so good but there’s no anticipated bluster, no hint of The Beatles own White Album influences or experimentation creeping in and though you feel there are autobiographical snatches of Vie’s life there is no straight line narrative to ground you.
‘Light Shine On’ ups the tempo and sounds more optimistic with swelling background vocals that are simply infectious and for once at points lets the song breathe and the music shine through the vocal melodies, it’s soulful almost proselytising and completely essential. ‘Better Love Next Time’ feels initially like a 60’s girl band meets ELO mash it has all the hallmarks of the Shangri-La’s and yet is still definitively Vie, It’s a minor masterpiece, simple and plaintive and one of the very best realized tracks here.


‘My Love’ starts with simple piano before a distant vocal glides in, it’s almost hymn-like in its simplicity and intensity before it grows organically into a simple dissertation on the feeling you have when you are in love. As soon as the song builds it quickly falls back and again it’s guided forward on a soft cloud of backing vocals that convey it to the end. It’s one of the very best.


‘When Will You Love Me Again’ is all smooth vocals with a drift and swing that you can almost imbibe like an early Rock and Roll croon with edges smoothed. There’s a crooning swagger and quirky swing carried on a high end synth melody that lodges it in your brain. ‘Haunted’  that follows is another huge statement and smashes through with a rocking guitar before quickly laying back on high vocals and drifting away, punctuated by  guitar stabs that accentuate the track which deals with fear and despair. The refrain “Forever haunted by all I wanted” underlines the feeling of reality not matching desire, it’s the perfect example of what Vie has always done best of all: create beauty through the veil of sadness. It’s a song that lefts the whole album to another level.


‘Unforsaken’ is very Enuff Z’Nuff in feel: a confessional about being in the band  with a beat that is almost hypnotic,  it’s cathartic in itself with its slow time and weaving vocal that bursts with a Beatlesesque power and even elicits screams, it’s another fine song.


At this point it almost feels like the album has come to a natural end with a high but there are still a further eight tracks and the sequencing seems a little strange with a live track ’25 or 6 to 4 (Live)’ originally recorded by Chicago lifts the pace with some great horns before a final run in with two ‘outtakes’ buried between standard album tracks (three before and two after). It’s just odd, but in truth it doesn’t really affect the flow here and the tracks marked ‘outtakes’ are well worth inclusion.


‘You’re My Favourite Thing to do’ has strings and keys and a wandering melody that builds beautifully and grows before your eyes: a lilting uplifting ballad, and another of our favourite songs here. ‘Almost Home’ has a similar tempo it’s another wonderful construct that sits nicely as a trio of songs with the warm and reverent version of ‘Lennon’s imagine which is in good company with the Vie-penned tunes.


Before the end of the album we get treated to two tracks labelled ‘outtakes’ which don’t traditionally sit at the end of the album, or as ‘bonus’ tracks. Aside from that minor quirk though  both ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Without You’ are quite simply as good as anything here. ‘Angel Eyes’ is a  sweet little afterthought that swoons and stutters like a summers day; whilst ‘Without You’ adds horns and an almost subdued Motown beat, it’s the sort of simple song stripped back to the bare essentials that Vie has always excelled at – getting right to the heart of the song. The only puzzle really is why bother to label these ‘outtakes’ at all!


Closing out the album ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Freaky Deaky’ offer a slightly harder edge. ‘Big Brother’ fizzes in on keys and has a harder backbone than a lot of the tracks here which rely on sublime melodies – this is the best marriage of instrument and vocal and has a kick in that vocal that has a fight to it that sets it aside from many of its album-mates. It’s a mid-tempo rocker that flows wonderfully sweeping you up in the great arrangement but not only that there’s a huge bite! Lyrically it is the most revealing track of all – a barely concealed tirade against a certain former bandmate that really opens your eyes.


‘Freaky Deaky’ has the final word though, and is almost a brother to the earlier ‘Handy Dandy’ sonically if not lyrically. There’s a nice little bite to the end of a thoroughly enjoyable album.


‘The White Album features some of Donnie‘s finest songs to date and whilst the stunning ‘My Love‘, ‘Haunted‘ and ‘Unforsaken‘ will stand out for some , that is only part of the story here: there’s so much to love. What next Mr. Vie?

 

 

by Mark Rockpit

 

DONNIE VIE THE WHITE ALBUM - HARD ROCK ALBUM REVIEW 2014