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Album Review

Perhaps Brian Vander Ark's solo career makes up for memories of his older — and recently reunited — Verve Pipe, '90s Michigan alterna-popsters of the ubiquitous melodrama "The Freshman." Alone, he's made more adult-oriented, acoustic-dipped balladry that whispers "mature human being" rather than "radio friendly!" or "viral marketing campaign." (Or, "No, we're not the Verve!") Three LPs in four years have honed this newer direction's discipline, peaking on a new eponymous LP that's aided by balmy producer Bill Szymczyk. Vander Ark already came armed with a throat that's Peter Gabriel cum Elbow's Guy Garvey. But he no longer oversings/oversells small-bore tales of ordinary people, highlighted by "Little Man" and the Graham Nash-ish "Evangeline," philosophical treatises on the pitfalls of excessive pride. (An ex-rock star would know, and good on him for shedding.) Like a neo-Elton John circa Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water (think "Amoreena"), he lets tapping lead piano, light guitars, and mild percussion set the scene, though there are rootsy/country numbers, too. Not bad. ~ Jack Rabid, The Big Takeover, Rovi


Born: 19 June 1964 in Grand Rapids, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Michigan native Brian Vander Ark is best known as the frontman for the Verve Pipe, which scored a chart-topping modern rock single in 1997 with "The Freshmen." The track also earned the band an ASCAP Pop Award. A veteran songwriter and solo artist in his own right, Vander Ark began playing guitar at age eight; by the age of 16, he'd already begun penning songs. Although still underage, he honed his skills playing nightly one-hour sets in Holiday Inn bars, a modest gig that earned him $275 weekly....
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