In the '90s, Manhattan's club scene was full of young singer/songwriters -- some excellent, some decent, some mediocre, some totally forgettable. One of the more promising was Paul Ruderman, who didn't come out with an album until the early '00s. Released in 2001, Wish is an excellent debut. Ruderman's folk-rock and pop-rock aren't groundbreaking; his primary influences are '60s and '70s influences, and even though Ruderman wasn't born until 1969, melodic tunes like "Amazin' Feelin'" and "A Lot Like You" make it clear that he is well aware of the era that gave listeners Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Jackson Browne, the Byrds, and John Lennon. But there is no law stating that every artist who comes along has to be an innovator. While Wish doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, Ruderman is great at what he does. This CD is derivative, but it's also heartfelt, engaging, and quite consistent -- there are no weak tracks or throwaways on Wish. Many of Ruderman's songs have to do with romantic matters, although he is also capable of tackling social or political topics. "Madman in Waco," for example, is about the tragic Branch Dividian incident that took place in Texas in 1993 -- the madman he is referring to is, of course, cult leader David Koresh. Can Ruderman address dark subject matter? Yes, but on the whole, Wish isn't a dark or pessimistic album. In contrast to many of the angry, angst-ridden alternative rock that came out in the '90s and early '00s, Ruderman doesn't spend all of his time dwelling on darker emotions -- in fact, the catchy opener "Sunshine" gets the album off to an optimistic start. Wish is a debut that Ruderman can easily be proud of.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson