Reviewers will often say a musical artist has an artistic voice like no one else working today but, in the case of Jeremy Rice’s Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa, it isn’t just puffery. I won’t pretend that it is a perfect album; there isn’t a bad song among the lot, but some are more successful than others. It sparks and crackles throughout, however, with a sense of individual identity quite at odds with the cookie cutter approach we hear from the bulk of modern musical performers today. Canadian born Rice has worked long and hard to hone his songwriting chops in such a way you’ll never mistake him for another performer.
His ability to occupy a unique niche in the indie world is evident in the album opener “Johnny Rogers”. He creates an irrepressible character who’s ready to steamroll anything in his way and Rice could scarcely get the album off to a finer start. “Somebody Like You” is a classic pop single and Rice recognized that – it is the album’s second single since its release and I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t generate a lot of momentum for this release. He nails the slow build of instruments without ever sounding too predictable and the climactic moments of this song, when they arrive, more than justify your patience and reward waiting them out.
“NME” is a fiery number, even bit as ready to rumble as the album opener, though you will be excused if you wish Rice had a little less of a nasal edge to his voice for the song’s aggressive lyrical content. It’s cunning and cutting in turns without ever seeming too affected and the relentless drive pushing the song towards its conclusion makes it one of the album’s more energetic performances. “Dream Tonight” is one of the more sensitively wrought cuts included on the release and the vocal harmonies laden throughout the recording are impressive. There’s some exceptional lead guitar worked into the song’s second half.
“The Legendary Fist of Takinawa” recalls the earlier “NME” in its frantic pace and affords Rice a final occasion to flex his storytelling muscle as a songwriter for listeners. There’s very little this album fails to do – it is clear Rice entered the studio with a vision for what he wanted to accomplish with this release and, like all great labors, he makes it sound effortless throughout the album’s nine tracks. Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa is inspired without ever getting carried away with itself and never strikes a false note for listeners.
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