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Review: Playboys' 'Sky' has limits

Roots band fronted by OC veteran Michael Ubaldini could use more vocal punch on latest disc.

June 12, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Long-time Fountain Valley resident Michael Ubaldini is the singer for the band Michael and the Lonesome Playboys.
Long-time Fountain Valley resident Michael Ubaldini…

Music is a medium that carries an artist's emotion and soul to listeners. It's a way to express one's self with rhythm and instruments.

You need three key elements to effectively convey your message through music: the band, the lyrics and the vocals. In Michael and the Lonesome Playboys' latest record, "Bottle Cap Sky," I only found two of the three; it lacked good vocals.

It's not that frontman Michael Ubaldini, of Fountain Valley, can't sing. But his vocal abilities seem a little flat and soulless in these 15 tracks.

Take the opening track, "Walk Through Fire." It's a song about the struggles people go through and how they can overcome any problem. Some of the lyrics appear to allude to a heart-valve infection that Ubaldini publicly battled several years ago: "See a man laying in his bed, he can walk through fire / When on the brink of being dead, he can walk through fire."

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The band is in the background giving Ubaldini a good foundation, and his lyrics, though a tad repetitive, complement the music. The lead vocal, however, falls by the wayside and doesn't add that punch of emotion to the song. The backing vocals help a bit, but I was waiting for something more from the heart.

"Someone Should Put You On Trial" is an interesting track, to say the least. It's got a moody, bluesy feel to it and makes you feel like you're wandering the desert. As I listened to the song multiple times, the harmonica in the song reminded me of something. It took me a while to figure it out, but then it hit me: It was reminiscent of the theme song of the 1990s sitcom "Roseanne."

This is one of the better songs Ubaldini has to offer on the album. One thing did bug me about this song and the second-to-last track, "Steel Train": They just fade off into the ether. Lots of songs fade out, but Ubaldini picks weird spots to start the fade. You never see them coming, and before you know it, you're already on the next track.

There's one aspect to this album that I truly respect: Ubaldini decided to track all the songs using analog tape, which is a dying medium to record music on. After watching the documentary "Sound City" by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, I've developed a new respect for what it takes to record music on magnetic tape rather than a digital file.

In the liner notes, Ubaldini emphasizes the fact that he used minimal overdubbing and didn't rely on auto-tune or audio samples. I applaud his effort to keep his music as raw and unedited as possible, but a little more vocal overdubs and layering wouldn't hurt his cause.

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