Led by a former child prodigy turned versatile singer/songwriter, Five for Fighting made its debut with Message for Albert, an intelligent and well-crafted collection of brooding mid-tempo songs. Delving deep into Billy Joel meets Ben Folds meets Satchel territory, Ondrasik displays the uncanny ability to take beautiful melodies like the simple piano phrasing of "Day By Day" and weave them into stunning, multi-layered vocal arrangements replete with gorgeous string crescendos, each playing off each other like a well-oiled machine. "The Garden," undeniably Message for Albert's most epic number, is yet another impressive heavily orchestrated show piece that rises above its humble lyrics and escalates into a full-blown "New York State of Mind" type of arrangement sprinkled with religious metaphors. "Happy" is one of those odd time signature ditties that eerily resembles Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years." And finally, there's the remarkable "Love Songs." Lamentful, charming, and urgent, "Love Songs" hints at Ondrasik's ability to completely envelop songs with his voice (later developed on the band's sophomore offering). A promising debut that sadly lost its shot when EMI spontaneously combusted after the record's release.
AllMusic Review by John Franck