Money Mark - Brand New By Tomorrow
If you're even a casual Beastie Boys fans, chances are you know Money Mark. Mark and his keys played a pivotal role in the group's sonic restructuring in 1992 on Check Your Head
by adding much of the Soul/Jazz/Funk groove that dominated the album (and its follow-up, Ill Communication
). Mark has also worked with Beck, Yoko Ono and the Blues Explosion (to name a few) and done film scoring work, but he took his first solo steps in 1995 with Mark's Keyboard Repair
, an ADD album if there ever was one, containing 30 diverse instrumental tracks that played off the Soul Jazz vibe of his work with the Beasties.
Press the Button came three years later and found Mark developing a more consistent and organized musical persona. Now, almost 10 years later, Mark has returned to the bins with Brand New By Tomorrow, an album that bears little resemblance to his more "party-startin" output. It's a mellow Pop album built around songs, not just sounds and grooves. You could slip these tracks onto an AM Radio Gold From the '70s compilation and no one would flinch. Mood-wise and structurally, the songs recall Harry Nilsson or Paul McCartney's earlier solo work, mixing melancholy and hope in a way that would make Brian Wilson proud. Mark has developed a sturdy (if a bit thin) vocal style -- think a mix of Sean Lennon and Elvis Costello -- that works well on these emotive break-up songs, which showcase the confusing tide of feelings that pour forth during relationship calamities. Every song on the album is mid-tempo and lathered in groovy, but never flashy, embellishments, like the swoosh of string sounds on album highlight "Pick Up the Pieces" (featuring bass from the legendary Carol Kaye), the chintzy Bossa Nova beat on "Radiate Nothing" and the Moog-y synth curls and Pet Sounds-ish French horn on the acoustic-guitar-driven "Eyes That Ring." Brand New By Tomorrow can be linked to the recent resurgence of "Soft Rock" in the Indie world, but that doesn't mean it isn't a gorgeous, soulful record that shows Money Mark's impressive trek from sideman to astute, mature songwriter/frontman. (Mike Breen) Grade: B+