BUZZ MEADE – Reflect the Light
Some fun facts about Buzz Meade: He was only 16 when he released the first of four five-song EPs that preceded Reflect the Light, his first full-length album. He and the band recently traveled to Pennsylvania (and back) in a $400 van nicknamed “EB.” He lived in Hollywood for a while, and now lives in Waupun. He names the Beatles, Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Jason Mraz as his influences.
Now, given how polarizing artists like Mayer and Mraz are – you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em – listing them as influences seems a risky decision. In contrast, naming the Beatles is almost unnecessary; what pop artist hasn’t been influenced by the Beatles? Since I am quite solidly in the “hate ‘em” camp, it’s a very good thing for Meade that I didn’t look at his MySpace page before I listened to the disc. The good news is that he is never as annoying as either of those artists, no your-body-is-a-wonderland nonsense or “Remedy”-style white-boy rhyming. The not-quite-bad news is that Meade never distinguishes himself as anything more than a likable, listenable songwriter. Of course, that is probably enough.
After numerous listens the song that stands out the most is the one non-original. Many songs from the late 60s have aged well, becoming timeless, but the Supremes’ “Love Child” is not one of them. Its concerns over illegitimacy and the trauma of growing up without a name, scorned by society, sound ridiculously dated given today’s moral climate. It seems an odd and ultimately misguided choice.
The CD starts pleasantly with “She’s A Mystery,” a straightforward poppy delight. “Still In Love” has a melody reminiscent of the Gin Blossoms’ atypically country-sounding “Cheatin’,” though the lyrics about still having feelings an ex (“After all that we’ve been through / It’s sad I’m still in love with you”) are a bit pedestrian. Carl Rozas’ violin buoys the tune while John Calarco’s drumming propels it along. Rozas shines throughout; the pretty “God Only Knows” (not a cover) receives added gravity, while “Out in the Cold” comes closest to the Dave Matthews sound courtesy of his violin. Curiously, the three songs that finish the disc are listed as being previously unreleased. Um, isn’t that the point of releasing a CD? Two are also listed as demos, although they sound fully realized. One of those, “Love Affair,” is a duet irredeemably marred by a partner who can’t sing.
Overall, Meade’s first long-player is a winning collection of pop songs. Fans of Matthews, Mraz and Mayer will undoubtedly love Reflect the Light, and even non-fans will find something to appreciate.