Robin DiMaggio - Blue (Favored Nations) Hmm... this is another album I'd have to put in the 'emptiness of virtuosity' category. While I'm not suggesting that everyone who excels at playing their instrument makes bad music (I'm a prog-rock fan, after all), it seems that too often musicians seem to lose all or most of their taste (Neal Schon, anyone?) in the quest to perfect their musicianship. Although nowhere near as bad as Neal Schon's last snooze-fest, Robin DiMaggio's album does paint a rather sad portrait of a talented musician who, somewhere along the way, seems to have lost sight of the idea that musicians are supposed to make music that engages the listener on some level. One interesting similarity between the aforementioned Schon and DiMaggio is that their forays into overproduced easy listening music ultimately do little to show off their alleged virtuosity. In fact, I never would have thought that DiMaggio is an extremely respected drummer (or at least he seems to be in various drummer magazines) simply from listening to this album. However, most of the songs on this album have a spark of something interesting in them, but it seems that through the course of each song the interesting factor gets diluted by cheese. In particular, there are several songs with interesting Eastern influences ("Child of Bedouin," "La Nuit d'Oran") that get ruined by diva-esque posturing by the singer and cheesy production, respectively. "Child of the Bedouin" also features some embarrassing spoken foreign language passages, as does the Brazilian "Poema do Brasil." Don't get me wrong, I don't mind people speaking foreign languages (I cringe to think of how ridiculous it would sound with English spoken passages), but the passages in question sound like they come from bad foreign soap operas, just judging from the melodramatic tone of voice alone. The larger problem with all these songs is that none of them seem to go anywhere. As a theoretically talented drummer, one would think that DiMaggio would know how to infuse his grooves with life, vitality, and momentum. Instead, they just crawl along. Worse still, he often uses a simple unchanging percussion loop throughout the whole song, a particularly curious choice for a drummer's solo album. It would be laudable, true, if the songs really needed such a loop, but it seems like such songs only exist on the album to show his modesty. That's just as boring to me, the listener, as him showing me his virtuosity. The album's most interesting aspect is the way it moves through many different genres. The more exotic styles of music seem somewhat interesting, even with DiMaggio's rather bland approach. But in the styles of music that I'm far more familiar with than I want, DiMaggio's utter of lack of common musical sense and taste is painfully apparent. Particular offenders are the so-lame-it's-funny "poetic rap" remake of Toto's "Africa" (who thought this would be a good idea in the first place?) and the dance/pop number "It Happened to Me," which features one of the most misplaced guitar solos ever, courtesy of, oddly enough, Steve Vai. Of all the "emptiness of virtuosity" albums I've heard, this is one of the most "empty." It is not, like Neal Schon's last album, so bad that it's amusing in a "Plan 9 From Outer Space"-type way, but in a way that's almost worse. As a whole, it fails to connect with the listener on any level, not even inspiring the listener's contempt. Like most of the grooves, it's simply there, seemingly content in it's own mediocrity. Mr. DiMaggio, I'm sure you can do better than this. ~Jon Murphree~
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