Friday, April 19, 2013

Dave's Way: The Final Chapter

Welcome back, Moonalice fans!  We're coming down the home stretch of the Dave's Way review series.  After three weeks of immersing myself in music journey that is Dave's Way, I arrived at this conclusion as I sat down to write this week's review:  This will be both the hardest and the easiest one of the whole series.

Why?  Simple.  If you've followed the series of reviews over the last few weeks, you know that I've thoroughly enjoyed this box set so far, so I came into my initial listening of Volume's 7 and 8 already assuming I would enjoy the music to come.  I was not let down.  While the highlights were fewer than in the first six volumes (to my taste, of course), it in no diminished the quality of the music contained within.

I must admit, I was several tracks ahead when I began listening to Volume 7 of Dave's Way, having seen that the band covered one of my all-time favorite songs, Hallelujah, to close the disc.  More on that later.   Volume 7 begins by showing off Roger McNamee's storytelling abilities with Last Frontier.  Close your eyes, and you'll hear a touch of Dylan in McNamee's vocals, accompanied  by the sights and sounds of the uppermost reaches of the Alaskan wilderness.

Next up on the highlight list is, surprisingly yet another Grateful Dead influenced tune, an instrumental entitled Coconut Wireless. Coconut is the perfect balance for Roger McNamee's story telling in the open trio of tracks; it's as if the rest of the band finally decided to give him a break, and stretch things out a bit.  In typical Dead fashion, the band adeptly straddles the line between wandering and focused with guitarist Pete Sears taking the bull by the horns and soloing to his heart's content for seven solid minutes. Sears uses the opportunity to showcase both his songwriting abilities and chops, weaving a main theme in and out of exquisite lead playing.

Volume 7 closes with what I would consider the piece de resistance of the entire set, a cover of Leonard Cohen's classic, Hallelujah.  The trick with a song this iconic is to capture and deliver the emotion of the original, while putting your own flavor and feel to it.  Moonalice accomplishes this combination perfectly, with  touching instrumentals, highlighted by beautiful pedal steal lines from guitarist Barry Sless, including a pair of soaring solos that, with all due respect to, steal the show.  Despite the somewhat reserved quality of Roger McNamee's vocals, his work on this Cohen classic certainly delivers the emotion required to bring it home, making this the obvious choice to close the disc.

It is with no disrespect that I say that in the context of the box set, Volume 8 is the only possible weak link.  While there aren't any ear-grabbing highlights like the seven volumes before it, it is another small collection of Moonalice's full range of talents.  It opens with Rome Burns, which for reasons unbeknownst to me reminds me a little of the Animals cover of House of the Rising Sun with quicker pace.  Man in Me, and Angle of Repose are this album's Grateful Dead flavored tunes, and Diana's Up and Dancing brings Dave's Way to a close with an upbeat 50's rocker that's almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

And that, my friends brings this four part review of Moonalice's Dave's Way box set to a close.  It has been without a doubt a truly enjoyable musical journey, full of a wide variety of tunes, ranging from love songs, to Grateful Dead inspired jams.  Moonalice's musical background and ability to excel in numerous musical genres means that my statement from the first week's review holds 100% true: there is something for everyone across the eight volumes of the set.  I hope you've enjoyed exploring Dave's Way as much as I have.  

Now, if you'll glance at your calendar, you'll see that this series has come full circle, with the final edition having been posted on April 20th.  Let's celebrate, shall we?  Click here to pick up your free download of the opening track of Dave's Way, 4:20 Somewhere, because today, it's 4/20 here!

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