The Edge of the World (Audio CD),23 September, 2003|
List price $13.98
What happened between 2001 and 2003? / 2
Well, after listening to Billy Bob's previous CD, Private Radio (released 2001), this was quite a change.
I like Private Radio from the very first cut, and found the whole recording to be one I could listen to over and over again.
Perhaps it was the bare bones (but quite extremely fitting) arrangements and more intimate, introspective atmosphere of Private Radio that I half expected here.
Well, dispite (or maybe because of) the more elaborate production and overall polish of 2003's The Edge of the World, I just don't feel that Billy Bob was quite as comfortable and relaxed this time around. While I didn't notice the "ascend to pitch and descending last note" vocals in Private Radio, they're quite apparent here, particularly in the title cut (melody of which is reprised in "God").
Please tell me that's not a drum machine in the opening measures of "Fast Hearts."
A horn section at the intro and throughout "Everybody Lies"? Yes, it's a horn section. A HORN SECTION. Lord, step aside, Blood, Sweat & Tears. Billy Bob's comin' to Vegas.
Billy's band discovers acid for the lengthy opening of "Do God Wop," and passes the bong for the equally lengthy (and utterly pointless) spoken narrative/outro.
Either Billy Bob borrowed Cher's pitch correction software after she was finished using it for "Believe," or somebody has done something damn funky with Pro Tools digital editing, because held notes seem a bit too unnatural. (Note: for those who have no idea what pitch correction is, let me sum up my feelings on the matter: better for a human voice to be natural [albeit a few cents flat or sharp] that to sound like a robot [a la "Believe"]).
A sitar on "Edge of the World (Reprise)"? Billy Bob, come on, man!
Oh, I see: repeating the vocal melody throughout the album is artistic. Gotcha. Now I understand. Goes along with the "Part II" and "Reprise" thing. Right.
The studio musicians are most definately LA studio musicians. Oh, yeah. LA studio musicians.
Oh, yes, that IS pitch correction! Check out "Island Avenue": not only disgustingly obvious enough initially, but intentionally used for robotic effect on the words "In a monotone".
But, there are a few good points, folks: "The Desperate One" is a well-produced tune, without being overbearing. Harmonies are top-notch; Joe Walsh does some fine guitar work on "Pieces of a Man"; and "Midnight Train" and "To the End of Time/Edge of the World, Part II," without the way-overused pitch correction (though it's still there, for cryin' out loud), overproduction, horn sections and sitars, comes closest to conveying Billy Bob's voice and soul.
Yes, I was always told, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," but when you take a blessedly unpolished, soulful songwriter/vocalist like Billy Bob Thornton, add musicians who know that this is a voice meant for acoustic guitars and maybe a little B-3 organ, keep the arrangements tastefully performed and musically supportive of such a voice, and allow the music and vocals to come forth naturally -- raw, unprocessed, and natural, ie: MUSICAL -- you end up with with darn good music that's a pleasure to listen to over and over again.
I truly hope Billy Bob Thornton keeps making albums. But, a return to the realness, the unpretentiousness, the unpolished would be a most welcome thing, indeed.
Drop the LA guys, the digital pitch correction and the horn sections, Billy Bob. Damn, son, a guitar, bass, drums and organ is what your voice and lyrics cry for. Get back to the real, the gritty, the passionate, the painful reality.
And leave the overproduction and pitch-correcting annoyances to Cher.
I know this has come off rough, but honesty ain't always pretty. And if I didn't appreciate Billy Bob's work as deeply as I do, well, I guess I'd just hold my tongue. It's because I admire his work so much that I can say that, in my humble struggling musician's opinion, he can do a heck of a lot better than The Edge of the World. Want proof? Listen to Private Radio. Then try to tell me that ain't real.