How Strange It Seems

MA 076CD MA 076CD

The Marina label presents the second release from Athens, GA-based Brent Cash. Brent Cash's widely-celebrated debut album How Will I Know If I'm Awake (MA 071CD/LP) was released in 2008. The multi-instrumentalist took the long gap to create an even more elaborately crafted follow-up. How Strange It Seems is chock-full of sophisticated arrangements, multi-layered vocal harmonies, extravagant key changes and intricate rhythms. From the start, Cash decided to record his songs like "they did it back then," so no costs were spared to hire the best players in town and assemble a mini-orchestra featuring almost 30 musicians. The resulting work sounds like a lost pop masterpiece from the '60s and '70s. Opening track "I Wish I Were A Song" -- which bookends the record -- is the song cycle's lavishly orchestrated overture featuring strings, horns, flutes, tympani and even a harp. It perfectly sets the mood and is extremely rich in detail, scope and color. It's followed by "It's Easier Without Her" which sounds like a straight-ahead '70s AM radio hit à la Todd Rundgren and America. With its infectious Burt Bacharach-like horn motif and a great harpsichord part, it seems like the perfect soundtrack to cruise into golden sunsets along the California coast line. "I Can't Love You Anymore Than I Do" takes us straight into TV theme territory. Riding on a funky bass line, wah wah guitar and stabbing strings, it could easily be the mischievous love child of The Rockford Files, Dallas and Shaft. You can virtually see the opening titles roll to these delicious sounds. A special feature throughout the album is vocal quartet The South City Voices. Their light and breezy flow adds a lovely dose of sunshine pop to tracks like "The Heart Will Always Work Alone" and "Just Like Today" -- evoking groups like The Free Design, The Swingle Singers and Roger Nichols & The Small Circle Of Friends. Title track "How Strange It Seems" is pure Brent Cash brilliance. It starts out as a West Coast singer/songwriter tune, and then gets propelled to new heights by a powerful Brill Building arrangement (even featuring castanets!) -- delivered with all the vocal honesty of a Carpenters record. Its lyrics cover one of the main themes of the album: heartbreak turns into a new beginning. The album comes to a conclusion with the epic "I Just Can't Look Away." Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, it is an amazing musical journey. Structured in several different sections -- like Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park" -- it takes you through a rollercoaster ride of a relationship, beautifully set to music in an extraordinarily detailed arrangement.