With his album The Floating World scheduled to drop Aug. 23rd Rob Laufer — longtime musical director of LA’s Wild Honey Orchestra — dips into a bag of 10 Beatlesque-Kinks (aka Ray Davies) type tunes & emerges unscathed. The songs are brightly constructed. Clever lyrics, no heavy clichés, not long-winded & has hummable melodies.
While I find this more appealing than what passes as alt-rock today, Rob teeters on being too sweet with some tunes. But let’s not assume. “Avalanche,” & “Highway Machine,” while not stone-cold rock like The Who, Springsteen or Mumford & Son is well-written, arranged admirably. My ears enjoy it, but my PR experience wonders — what audience is this for? Today.
Millennials won’t listen to this, baby-boomers would if they knew it exists. Let’s be optimistic. There’s a thread of the late singer-songwriter Andrew Gold (“Lonely Boy”) in some of these treats & they often hit the target. With “Bolt of Blue” that would be the bullseye.
This has strange deep brass type sound wedded to a cheesy Farfisa type organ riff. The contrast is excellent. The song rollicks along with efficient energy. Rob fires on all cylinders with good pop instincts. This has chart song feeling & maybe that will attract young listeners. A hook is a hook even in 2019.
Dave Pearlman plays pedal steel (1st – 2 tracks); Nick Vincent (congas 2 tracks); Lyn Bertles (violin) with Matt Cook (cello) same 2 tracks; Eric Drew Feldman (organ); Danny McGough (alien signals track 3) & Carl Sealove (string bass, track 7). Rob Laufer does the rest.
“Floating World,” continues with the Andrew Gold catchiness. It’s a melodic, well-sung acoustic 70’s type tune. Quite commendable. Many songs fall neatly into a hit single realm many artists miss.
Track 5 “Space and Time,” is a hot retro rocker. Assertive, driving & has a John Hiatt type guitar that cuts through the sweetness. It keeps the song in a classic rock trap. Not bad, since it has substance wisely controlled in a psycho-babble arrangement. It’s not a novelty song. It’s worthy of repeated listens. The Cook-Bertles strings amplify the deep strains of rock stabbed by tight drums, & backward style guitar popular in the late ’60s.
Laufer’s definitely propulsive throughout on this. Could’ve been a George Harrison song — a contribution to the “Strawberry Fields/I Am a Walrus” era Beatles.
“This River,” & “The Holding Sea,” are plaintive. Despite a slight pedestrian performance — interesting listening. Laufer is not yet in that Lennon-McCartney pop vein, or Townes van Zandt songwriting arena. But his effort is obvious. A more distinctive voice would’ve given more lift.
“As Long as You Belong,” retains melodic attractiveness. Laufer’s voice is not powerful but the music is catchy, his voice doesn’t have that edginess of a Warren Zevon to add some vinegar. Should rethink the inflection & phrasing & it could be more powerful. When Rob sings “matters” it hits hard on the ear with the “r” like Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon. Vocally, hard “r’s” – not attractive. But, the words & arrangement are fine – actually solid. A more Ray Davies – David Bowie type voice — a more likable track.
“Hippie Love,” — a Cat Stevens type percussive 60’s toss off, isn’t novelty stuff. It has humor, bounce & a decorative John Lennon type inflection. Refreshing. The CD is not Godiva chocolate, but a good box of chocolate-covered cherries. Tasty throughout. I have Rob’s earlier Wonderwood CD – an LP with more delicacies.
Produced: Rob Laufer. Website: https://www.roblaufermusic.com/