Joe Firstman

The War of Women

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Joe Firstman's record should be a disaster, but it works. Just look at the cover: it looks like a pretentious Billy Squier or Chris de Burgh cover. And his sound is derivative of so many groups that there is only space to mention a few of them. "Breaking All the Ground" is Black Crowes mixed with the Wallflowers, "Can't Stop Loving You" is Bob Seger (or Frankie Miller) crossed with Ryan Adams, "Car Door (Dancing in the Aisles)" is more Ryan Adams with some Jayhawks thrown in for good measure. Add some Jackson Browne, Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Elton John, some Nicks, some Buckingham, and The War of Women basically plays like a who's who of AOR artists both old and new. The reason it works is that Firstman has what most of these bands and artists have lost (either a long time ago or fairly recently) -- that is, the vitality and rush of energy that comes along with a first record. The songs have the strut of early Black Crowes, the lyrical intensity of early Wallflowers or Counting Crows, the healthy pretension of Ryan Adams without the cooler than thou attitude, the grit and humor of prime Bob Seger. These songs sound like they burst of out Firstman almost against his will; they dance and shout with a refreshing enthusiasm that is really exciting. His voice is warm and inviting, his lyrics are dense, and the disc is packed with drama and a sense of urgency that makes it come alive. The slow ballads sometimes drag a little (although "Now You're Gorgeous, Now You're Gone" is depressingly majestic and "After Los Angeles" is a fittingly busted-up way to end the record), but luckily there are only a couple of them. Most of the record is made up of barnburners like the flag-waving "Slave or Siren" or the bouncy "Speak Your Mind" that will have you slapping your thigh and exclaiming "I didn't think AOR could ever be this good again!" Of course, if you don't like trad rock, you will find nothing to like about The War of Women, because it is trad through and through. The rest of you should run out and get a copy of this amazing debut before it makes its inevitable way to the cutout bin. Heck, maybe if enough people buy it, it will be a hit. No matter, even if it sells 25 copies, this record is a hit.

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