The American

Angie Aparo

Melisma Records, 2000

http://www.angieaparo.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/13/2003

Sometimes artists whose songs get turned into hits by others are underappreciated geniuses (e.g. John Hiatt, Matraca Berg). And sometimes they just get mind-bendingly, two-time Lotto-winner lucky.

One more piece of evidence for the latter arrived over the holidays, in the form of Angie Aparo's 2000 release The American. My friend Dave, something of a country fan, took note of the fact that Faith Hill's mega-hit "Cry" was written by Aparo and first appeared on this album. That, plus the fact it was produced by matchbox twenty producer-in-residence Matt Serletic seemed to offer enough promise to make it a gift.

Indeed, the opening "Green and Gold" has its intriguing moments, matching Serletic's trademark crystal-clear sound, textured loop effects and fat guitar hooks with a moderately ambitious environmentalist lyric. Aparo's vocals are nothing if not powerful as he demonstrates strong range and some nice phrasing in the quieter moments.

And that's the album in a nutshell. Superbly clear, slightly gimmicky production, fat guitars and dramatic vocals. (Oh, God, you're really going to make me finish this, aren't you? Fine, but first I have to apologize to Dave. I know you meant well, and I swear I gave it several tries. But...)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Alrighty, then. After listening to this entire album several times, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Aparo should thank his lucky stars that Faith Hill liked his song. Because, while the guy has a boomer of a voice, what he does with it alarms as often as it impresses.

One of his biggest handicaps is that, as a lyricist, he's a heck of singer. "A spaceship landed by the mall / There was a big parade / Everybody got laid / And they burned all the books and the Chevrolets." No, really, that's straight off the lyric sheet. Hey, buddy, you getting any oxygen in that vocal booth?

Well, then, let's cut straight to the prime point of curiosity about this album - how does "Cry" sound done by the original (male) artist? Mostly, it gives you a good idea what the song would sound like done by Michael Bolton, or maybe even Cher. If Aparo's delivery was any farther over the top he'd fall off the other side. (Never mind that the song itself is a creepy little jab of self-pity and resentment.)

The Foreigner-circa-1979 synth solo on "Third Time Around" is at least a laughable distraction from Aparo's continuous over-emoting. But we aren't so lucky on "Free Man," where Aparo blasts right through the walls of common sense and lets loose with his own version of the infamous Neil Diamond bray. If I had a dog, this is about when it would likely have run whimpering from the room.

Speaking of old Neil, ever had a hankering to hear him try sing-songy rapping? That's roughly what the verses of "Beautiful" sound like. It's almost enough to distract you from lyrics as awful as "Suzy burned for the admiration / And the cocaine urn Social Confirmation / On the water bed / Staring at the ceiling while her halo bled." Please, someone, make it stop.

The production is, well, just what you'd expect from Mr. matchbox twenty. And in truth, I have no argument with crafting dramatic soundscapes -- swelling synths, chirpy loops, beefy guitars, etc. -- if they're put into service backing a strong song. In the context of these songs, though, the production feels overdone as a charcoaled steak.

Interestingly, there's one other passable track here, the (nominally) hidden title cut. "The American" features Aparo giving a relatively restrained performance over acoustic guitar, piano and strings. He still slips into Diamond-isms in a few places, and the lyric is somewhat muddled, but it's a decent listen that makes you wonder what he might sound like with a stripped-down sound and some help with lyrics.

So, better luck next time, Angie Aparo. My advice is to work on the songs, modulate the delivery, say goodbye to matchbox-boy, and keep sending Faith Hill roses until Tim McGraw makes you stop.

Rating: D-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2003 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Melisma Records, and is used for informational purposes only.