Rick Kinscherf Berlin has released quality music for close to three decades, beginning with Orchestra Luna on Epic and continuing through his solo 16-cut Live at Jacques. His five-piece aggregation, the Shelley Winters Project, has him looking and sounding more youthful than ever. "Don't Know What to Do" is more subdued than the rest of this disc, with heavy drums and violins -- a very original song with lilting guitars and Berlin's trademark lost love vocal. "Always in Love" drives harder, and might have been a better opening track -- it is Rick Berlin's anthem. With keyboards that sound like Verden Allen on Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes," the singer's quirky musical changes are refined with this unit, more so than when he fronted the original Luna and Berlin Airlift, those bands being so highly experimental mainstream audiences missed the point -- though in Boston they were one of the major draws in the 1980s. "Always in Love could be a track off of a Tracy Bonham disc, with heavy guitar blasts mixing with the violin. "Water," on the other hand, sounds like the Spirit "I Got a Line on You" riff inverted and revamped for 2001. "David Berndt's guitar is more contemporary than the Mick Ronsin-ish Steven Paul Perry who co-wrote with Berlin for many years after Randy Roos went solo. Comparing Steven Paul Perry's unreleased material (1999-2000 recordings) with Shelley Winter's Project, one can get a clear view of what each artist brought to the table. The vocalist/songwriter/artist that is Rick Berlin is the innovator whose ideas brought that intrigue and something special to their work. The Shaft-inspired "Blood" takes the style created by the Talking Heads and wraps it up in R&B/funk/pop/modern rock. The former Neighborhoods frontman and ex-Paul Westerberg guitarist David Minehan does a solid job on production, showing an impressive understanding of Rick Berlin's often hard to grasp vision. Indeed, Berlin is thematically all over the map here, and it is a good thing. There is a cohesion to Shelley Winters Project that eluded the aforementioned groups/projects that make up the former Rick Kinscherf's rich musical legacy. Although "Rock & Roll Romance" from Rick Berlin: The Movie (yet another band, the last incarnation of Luna/Berlin Airlift) and the song "Hunger Strikes" may be Rick Berlin's two finest moments in song thus far, Shelley Winters Project emerges as possibly his most polished and consistent album work to date. "Hopefully" would make George Martin proud, a production that the Beatles could sing on, but which is undeniably original, and shows Rick Berlin as the innovative artist Bostonians have appreciated and come to respect throughout his career.
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione
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