Anthony Lamarr released this third installment in his series of thematically based recordings late last year. Act Two: The Way of the World is by far the best of the three, Lamarr taking it up several notches from the second installment, Intermission: The Learning Never Stops. Scott Lamps returns as co-producer, arranger, engineer and significant instrumentalist. He also mixed and mastered the recording at Madison’s DNA Music Labs. The production is excellent, clear crisp and clean. On previous efforts, Lamarr’s impressive tenor outshone some of the songs. This time around the songs rise to the occasion.
The opener, “Act Two” serves as an introduction to the rest of the album. Built on “Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G Major,” Lamarr adds beats, keys and vocals to Lamps’ cello. Lamarr’s lyrics do not shy away from his positivity or his Christian faith and these have been the backbone of all three of his recordings. Throughout he implores the listener to let God in, not only to guide but to bring forward a worthy mate and a good portion of this album seems obsessed with finding the perfect God-sent partner as much as finding oneself.
“Instruments” is a punchy number, one of the best Lamarr has come up with. Horns provided by Pete Ross and Charlie Wagner really funk things up while the inclusion of Lamps on bass and drummer Joey Banks make this an all-star lineup. At only 2:45 it leaves the listener wanting more. Things shift to pop with “It Gets Better,” another excellent song that’s beautifully arranged. Fellow Compass Rose (Lamarr’s other musical sideline) member Mike Droho features prominently. “Fear” is undoubtedly the heaviest track Lamarr has recorded to date with strong Pink Floyd overtones in the middle section.
“Elevation” is another strong contender and a song that was developed into an outstanding video shot in Blue Mounds State Park. This track features a spoken word intro from Rob Dz and cameos from Smokes, Clifton Beefy and D.L.O. the Iceman. It’s a super-cool groove highlighted by Catherine Schweitzer’s smooth cooing on the choruses.
“Go the Distance” goes a little over the sentimental top, not straying far enough from the Disney film song of the same name featured in Hercules. “Pretty Boys” and “World Song” employ hip-hop and world music arrangements respectively with a strong vocal performance from F.A.I.T.H. on the latter. “My Tomorrow” is an outright song of praise while the vocal-and-piano closer “Ovation” ends the album on an inspirational note.
If there’s one facet of Lamarr that shines through his music and his personality it’s his sense of community. He serves on the Madison Arts Commission and has made a real difference there already. The same commitments come through in his music and it’s great to have such an uplifting force in a world – and a local music scene – where cynicism is the easy way out.