Love Online, Brian Gari's second collection of songs, is a musical about -- well, it's not great surprise that it's about a couple that finds love online. He claims in his liner notes that these 15 are culled from over 45 songs that he wrote for this project, and if that's true, the record benefits from the concentrated focus, since there are no slow spots (although, portions of the narrative may benefit from more songs, since there are a couple of places where it all moves a little quickly). Gari's narrative is fairly simple and clean -- Keith, a skeptic about the internet, logs on and falls in love with Sarah; the two have a connection, but she's married, and the rest of the musical concerns the development of their relationship. This is a simple story, but it gives Gari a lot of room to draw character sketches -- not just of the two main characters, but of Bill, Keith's mildly obnoxious pal, or such incidental chracters as "Old Man Cobb." The characterizations are delivered through songs that are tailored specifically to the musical, such as the nearly slapstick "I Know What Happened," but there are several songs that are general enough thematically to stand on their own, and these happen to illustrate Gari at his strongest. "The Nicest Person I've Never Met" is a really fine ballad, intended to be a duet but working just perfectly sung solely by Gari, "You Must Have a Past" rushes by with an urgency with and the light bossa nova flair of "Sarah & Liza" in slyly infectious. Other moments on the record work just as well, and Gari, along with his co-producer/arranger/instrumentalist Jeff Olmsted on this record, give the music a sophisticated homemade feel that enhances the intimacy of the story instead of working against Gari's musical aspirations. This production also fits Gari's idiosyncratic blend of classic showtunes, '70s singer/songwriters, '60s pop, and early-'80s soft rock, giving it an appealing sheen. In that sense, this isn't entirely different from Gari's other work, yet Love Online is one of his best works, boasting not only a moving (yet witty) narrative, but several of his finest songs to date.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine