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Brian Olive

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Album Review

Brian Olive used to deliver potent garage rock guitar with the Greenhornes and blues-punk sax hollering with the Soledad Brothers, but he's expanded his sonic palette in a big way on his first solo album. Most of the tunes on Brian Olive are rooted in rhythm & blues in one way or another, but the man sure isn't shy about showing how many ways he can bend the sound to his will; "Stealin'" is a funky New Orleans second-line shuffle, "Jubilee Line" has a bassline James Jamerson would have been happy to call his own fortified with free jazz sax wailing, "High Low" reveals echoes of 1950s cool jazz for bachelor pads, and "Killing Stone" is a piano-based rocker that recalls the early-'70s Rolling Stones. Olive also dips his toes into breezy faux-tropicalia on the light and sensuous "Echoing Light" and some tripped-out acoustic psychedelia on "There Is Love." Olive clearly scores high on the eclecticism checklist, but he's also a fine songwriter, generating memorable tunes regardless of his stylistic bag, and he's put together a solid backing band for these sessions (including fellow Greenhornes Jared McKinney and Craig Fox and ex-Heartless Bastards Mike Weinel), and if his vocals aren't always as strong as the arrangements that surround them (he sounds more comfortable on the quieter numbers than the ones where he needs to belt it out), he has the right feel if not always the proper degree of force. Overall, Brian Olive is an impressive and pleasing solo debut that shows his chops as a producer, arranger, and songwriter make him more than just some Midwest sideman, and he should get back into the studio posthaste if there's more where this came from.

Customer Reviews

Tuneful mix of rock, glam, psych, soul, jazz and exotica

Brian Olive (as Oliver Henry) explored British Invasion and American garage rock as a member of the Cincinnati-based Greenhornes and Detroit-based Soledad Brothers, playing sax, flute, guitar, piano and organ, as well as singing and writing songs. On his solo debut he expands beyond the gritty hard-rock and reworked blues of Blind Faith and mid-period Stones to include healthy doses of psych, glam, and most surprisingly, soul and exotica. Influences of the New York Dolls, T. Rex and Meddle-era Pink Floyd are easy to spot, but they’re mixed with touches of Stax-style punch, South American rhythms, breezy jet-set vocals and jazz saxophones. It’s intoxicating to hear droning saxophones transform from big band to glammy psychedelia on “High Low,” and the acoustic guitar and drowsy vocals of “Echoing Light” bring to mind the continental air of Pink Floyd’s “St. Tropez.” This is a rock album steeped in the heavy sounds of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, mixed with the sort of experimental pairings Bill Graham pioneered on bills at the Fillmore. But rather than segueing the jazz, blues, soul and international influences across an evening, Olive invents ways to weave them together within a song, repurposing non-rock sounds in support of guitar, bass and drums. Olive’s voice stretches over his words, ranging from introspective and spent to emotionally propulsive, but the lyrics are difficult to understand, so it’s anyone’s guess what he’s actually singing about. Still, even without a simple storyline or easy sing-a-long, this is musically rich. Perhaps a lyric sheet could accompany the next album? 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Brian Olive already had an impressive career working with some of the more notable figures on the Midwest garage rock and punk blues scene before he reinvented himself with his first solo album in 2009. An Ohio native, Olive got his start in music when he was in high school, playing guitar in a band called Us and Them that would evolve into the celebrated garage rock combo the Greenhornes. Olive appeared on the group's first two albums, 1999's Gun for You and 2000's The Greenhornes, but parted ways...
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Brian Olive, Brian Olive
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