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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

CD Review: Reid MacLean - Bright Fading Star

Reid MacLean - Bright Fading Star
2007, Reid MacLean

New York City’s Reid MacLean has a resume that’s hard to match. He’s performed Off-Broadway, most notably sharing the stage with Mandy Patinkin in the Public Theater’s production of The Knife. He’s also released three albums and forgotten a great deal of what happened with New York City legends Spinoza. In 2007, MacLean released his solo debut, Bright Fading Star, a consummate singer-songwriter’s album. Produced by Will Berlind, Bright Fading Star includes quite the cast of characters. Contributors include Colin McGrath (Speedrack); Rob Moose (Sufjan Stevens, Antony & The Johnsons); Marco Pasnascia (Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove); Dana Lyn (Susan McKeown); Michael Leonhart (Steely Dan, Lenny Kravitz) and members of Spinoza (Lee Kizer, Paul Phillips, Stein Malvey and Kieran Kelly).

Bright Fading Star opens with Full Time Job, a smart and gentle rocker about the aftermath of a relationship. A strong melody and great lyrics set this up, but MacLean's vocals and perfect demeanor here push this over the top into being a great pop song. MacLean seems to have a talent for writing amazing material, but also for delivering it in a way that raises mere performance into Performance. Keep It To Yourself is tough message wrapped into a beautiful pop arrangement that is more about self-preservation than desire for loss.

Reid MacLean's writing is clearly in the folk genre, but his penchant for perfect little pop songs wrapped in the folk cloak make him a particularly enigmatic and engaging performer. Let's Go Out Dancing is one of those magic moments in music where genres and intentions fall away and you get lost in four minutes of near perfection. Let's Go Out Dancing could easily be done as a pop, country or folk song, but could also grace the stage of a Broadway musical without blinking. MacLean continues with Ne'er-do-well, a musical monologue that is incredibly personal and literate while having a "smooth" feel to it, like the narrator could talk you into anything.

Love Is An Ocean is touching and magical and full of fear and longing. Expect this song to be covered, licensed and used however marketing type folks can imagine. Love Is An Ocean is a classic song. Mi Corazon has a mellow Latin-pop sound and may be the most musically interesting song on Bright Fading Star. What I've Been Looking For has groove to it that will get your feet tapping and will stick in your head. It is perhaps the most upbeat and optimistic song on Bright Fading Star, and one of my favorites.

My second choice here though is Living In A Cage. The dual acoustic guitars condescend to search for a means to escape while circling around one another. MacLean doubles up the vocals (not my favorite device) here, giving a second sense of duality. There seems to be a struggle between the narrator who is confident and the narrator who lives with misgivings. Other highlights include House On A Ridge, Millie and 10th Grade Girlfriend.

Reid MacLean has a knack for writing near-perfect little pop songs, regardless of the genre. His story-telling ability in song is sublime. Musically, MacLean is incredibly talented, and his easy-going vocal style fits perfectly into the songs he writes. Bright Fading Star is two-thirds correct. I sincerely doubt there is any fade here. Bright Fading Star should make a lot of personal favorite lists. It's a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc. Don't miss out.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Reid MacLean at, where you can purchase a copy of Bright Fading Star as well as several other releases under the discography tab. You can also pick up Bright Fading Star at

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