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Adam Ezra Group | Ragtop Angel

album review by John Powell

Adam Ezra Group | Ragtime Angel

“Oh no, what did I say/to cast a shadow over this way?” Adam Ezra asks on “14 Days”, the rocking introductory song to Ragtop Angel, which is, to date, his tightest release. While no album can ever capture the Adam Ezra Group’s live sound, Ragtop Angel is close to the fiery passion. You can almost picture Adam’s bare feet, Turtle behind his percussion set, Robin Vincent grooving in his own bass-head world, and Josh Gold’s ear turned to his keyboard. Jon Chapman also appears on this record, as the group’s heavy drummer, turning the tendency to acoustic pop conventionalism into a rock tinged emotion train. Basically, the group is solid and can keep up with Adam’s spectrum of interests.

“14 Days” is definitely one of the rockier tracks. “Miss Hallelujah” follows, driven by Josh’s organ and Adam’s crisp acoustic guitar. “Beauty sometimes hides in the strangest of places,” Adam sings of a city. “We’re all just tryin’ to move ya.” The group rides a pop sincerity throughout the album, hitting the highlight sounds of 90s alt rock like the Goo Goo Dolls or The Wallflowers. The messages are positive, the stakes high, and the choruses explosive.

“Devil’s Side”, featuring harmonica, veers into near country rock galloping. “Ok By You” has slow balladry in Adam’s wonderful guitar playing. He’s simple, but beautiful, and mixes the right amount of finger picked gloss with heavy, ringing strumming.

“Takin’ Off” is the ultimate example of Adam’s songwriting style, a narrative about a girl facing challenges. “Take a last look out on/turn the key and we’re gone/We got miles to go/and I will drive it slow.” Is it cheesy? Not really. It nearly reaches a too-potent sentimentality, especially with Adam sounding much like Creed’s Scott Stapp or Lifehouse’s Jason Wade, but that rumble is a good voice with a good range and each word clearly stated. Perhaps it’s this crispness that gives them that near-too-poppy position, as they don’t have the fuzz and mumble of REM or the slur of other indie rock rebels. That only slightly detracts from how strong the songwriting is.

A key track is “Soldier”, also a rocker. At first, the verse is conventional, a thin bit of reverb causing a slight echo in the vocals, but the chorus ripples into palm-muted guitar riffing. “If they come to take this soldier/we will tear it down,” Adam sings gruffly. “I watch families gather for me,” he adds from the perspective of, well, a soldier. It’s a badass song that begs you not peg this group as a one-trick pony.

As noted, no record of theirs has yet reproduced the live affect of the Adam Ezra Group, but a bonus live tenth track, “Burn Brightly”, is a taste of the difference. Turtle’s percussion shines through better. He’s very good and adds layers. Deep into the groove Adam speaks to the crowd. “I have to tell you all, we did not know how this would go today. Who’s going to ride on a school bus? It’s a crazy idea. Here’s an idea: let’s do it on a Sunday night before the Boston marathon.” His rant is not tiring. It’s inspiring. That’s Adam Ezra- a poet, an honest, humble lover of music and community. Ragtop Angel is as good a place as any to become a fan.

Bottom line: Acoustic pop take on 90s alt rock and woven indie bliss. A lovable album.



0 # randy garcia 2012-01-25 09:13
wow. these guys are great. never heard of them till today. i really hope that they go somewhere. beautiful. thanx. randy. augusta maine


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