The Free Design

You Could Be Born Again

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The Free Design's second album offers fewer original songs than its predecessor, but a sound every bit as fresh and original as that earlier album. Chris Dedrick provides the title track, an upbeat, uplifting piece, not as hauntingly beautiful as "Kites Are Fun," but pretty in its own right, and followed by the ethereal "A Leaf Has Veins." The quartet also takes the risk of inviting comparisons with their West Coast rivals, the Mamas & the Papas, turning in a swinging rendition of "California Dreamin'," as well as gorgeous, ornate covers of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and Bonner & Gordon's "Happy Together," though perhaps the best moment here is their harmonized cover of Duke Ellington's "I Like the Sunrise" from "The Iberian Suite." The overall tone of You Could Be Born Again is more subdued and sophisticated than the group's debut, but it is also a more elaborate album musically, with a larger array of support musicians. The originals -- of which the prettiest examples are "I Found Love," "Daniel Dolphin," and "Ivy on a Windy Day" -- mesh nicely with the covers into a beguiling whole with a slightly spacy, psychedelic tone beneath its quiet elegance. Worth tracking down on vinyl for its classic gatefold design or buying on CD as a Japanese import.

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