Danny James


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You might well expect something interesting when the keyboard man with the Cuts drops a solo album, but it's a fair bet that Danny James' solo debut Pear doesn't sound the way you'd expect -- largely because this album has so much going on at once. Pear is both good fun and an ambitious bit of indie record-making, a glorious mélange of smart pop, muscular rock & roll, and '70s-style R&B, fortified with an understated wit and a production sense that's polished without robbing this music of its sweat and soul. Someone once described James' music as "Larry Graham and Queen on the floor with the Raspberries," and you can certainly hear all of that on Pear (sometimes even in the same song, such as "Smelling Ghost" or "That's Not the Plan"), but while James is clearly in love with cool sounds of another decade, Pear doesn't sound like the work of someone trying to resurrect the sounds of the past, but rather the sound of an artist who's found a style that works for him and is having a blast finding ways to bend it to his musical world view. If Danny James truly has a musical precursor, it's Todd Rundgren, in his eclectic sensibility, sure hand with a melody, and ability to sound snarky and sincere at the same time, and if this isn't the new millennium's answer to Something/Anything?, for the first solo album from an emerging talent on the Northern California rock scene, it's impressive stuff and very entertaining. Is this pop with muscles, or hard rock with polish and panache? Pear manages to deliver plenty of both, and Danny James clearly has some more interesting tricks up his sleeve.

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