The Violet Burning Pentimento 1 and Pentimento 2 album covers. Michael knows you're miserable......
Michael knows just what you need.......

www.thevioletburning.com

I'll state up front, and for the record, I am a Violet Burning fan. It is well documented elsewhere (see the review of the 10/26/11 house show) as to my feelings about this band. I will stop short of proclaiming sycophantic mania over every release that comes down the pipeline. Even the epic, and at times enigmatic, The Story of Our Lives was greeted with some real skepticism. Eventually I acquiesced and embraced it although not at the same level of some of the other TVB back catalog.

I am amazed that Michael Pritzl and Co. (for this outing Lenny Beh) remain driven, passionate and prolific. Marketing to a small but rabid fan base with little hope of breaking through to the mainstream seems the ultimate Sisyphusian nightmare. Hear me on this, it is not my desire to see this beloved band remain banished to obscurity, but things don't seem to be gathering momentum. Unless I've completely mis-read communications from the TVB camp, breaking even financially seems to be a best case scenario at this stage for them. Oh that there was an opening slot for a mid-level tour that would allow them some broad exposure and fiscal breathing room.........

Pentimento I and II are stripped down, acoustic “vibe” versions of primarily material from The Story of Our Lives. It doesn't sound all that new to the moderate to rabid fan who's followed them over the past couple years. Much of last season's tour was split between a full on rock set followed by a vibe set. Usually Black Cherry sat down and Lenny picked up his fiddle (I know, I know, it's a violin calm down, my brother was a classically trained violist and conductor) and Michael swapped his electric guitar and mission control gear for a great sounding Gibson acoustic and they got their mellow on. Some of the material made it's way onto live releases for fans as a thank you for donations etc.

Any how, familiarity in this case does not breed contempt. As always it's impeccably well recorded and performed. Massive kudos to all involved, the pitch is SPOT ON as well as the rhythm. Not easy with unfretted string instruments playing up against fretted ones (kudos to Gibson too, the acoustic guitar sounds great) and Lenny Beh is masterful. Lenny's timing is, of course, perfect as he is a drummer after all. It's an outing that grabs you and doesn't let you go. I would definitely recommend sitting and listening to it start to finish. Michael's baritone and falsetto remain every bit as compelling and urgent as they did 20 years ago. I can't imagine hearing one song and dropping it, it just doesn't build up momentum that way. Not that any sense of dynamics is lacking, quite the opposite. There is a VERY conscious avoidance of overt time based effects to create atmosphere. I guarantee this was an adamant line drawn by MJP in this project. The sense of immediacy is generated only by the vocals and instruments without the (overt) use of delay or reverb. Never does it feel claustrophobic or “small.” It's EQ'd and mastered very well. Few folks can do this and not have the modern listener's ear revolt. Rick Rubin's earlier production took this tack, the first Danzig album comes to mind. Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend does it masterfully as well although it was not a Rubin project. It's ironic that they cover U2's "Running to Stand Still" from The Joshua Tree as the Eno/Lanois production of that album as well as it's predecessor stand as a monument to the use of space and breathing room to create mood and atmosphere. In a somewhat perverse exercise, I wonder what Eno/Lanois would do with this? Or Flood? Or any of the producers from the days of yore like Hannett, Lillywhite, Clearmountain etc. whose signature sound was the use of the “new” technology of digital space/time effects.

I'll let it stand on it's own merit. But it leaves me wondering.........

4 Tocks4/5 stars
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