One of the most interesting and ultimately valuable new records to come out of 2002, James Angell's Private Player is akin to Love's Forever Changes in terms of overall elegance and strangeness. It becomes, in the end, a brilliant exercise in modern-day psychedelia. Angell's music is unique in that he welds influences as far-flung as jazz, soul, pop, and psychedelic music -- all often at the same time. The result is an intoxicating, narcotic voyage, yet has all of the luster of a classical piece. It's not easy listening nor is it probably intended to be. Angell's lyrics are both free-form and literate, and combined with the multi-layered arrangements, create a cinematic, almost Bosch-esque atmosphere where the lines of sanity, reality, and fantasy are often blurred. For an example of this, the listener is directed to the third track, "Ed Blue Bottle," which puts all of these elements together. Unsettling -- yes indeed. Beautiful listening absolutely. Aside from the beautiful "Treat Song" (featuring guest trumpet player Eric Matthews), the album's highlight may be epic closer "Sweet Bell." With it's eerie child's voice providing an introduction to Angell's vocal before surrendering to a dissonant soundscape that can only be compared to Tim Buckley's Lorca album, this is one of the album's greatest moments. Private Player is an experience that needs to be played and re-played several times preferably in a row, before the listener can fully realize how much music is really happening. In this way, it challenges the listener to become involved. This is not always a popular thing to do in these days of doubt and limited attention span, but is indeed necessary. The underground classic of 2001.
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AllMusic Review by Matthew Greenwald