Tuesday, December 27, 2016

MARK & JAMES-The Making Of (2009)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 27, 2016

After rockin' around the Christmas tree with some of my favorite traditional holiday tunes the past couple of days, I found myself rockin' to a different beat this afternoon with a dynamite duo that simply called itself MARK & JAMES. There's a funny and heartwarming background story available on their page at the Last.fm streaming radio site that tells how these two guys formed while attending college together, while other sites tell about their rise to fame serving as the opening acts for such popular artists as Avril Lavigne, Robin Thicke, ONE REPUBLIC and THE JONAS BROTHERS. Besides those live performances, as well as an apparent collection of recordings entitled "Hello, I Love You & Goodbye", their only other known official release together is this 2009 effort, "The Making Of"—another long-standing music wish fulfilled, and it was well worth the wait! The conclusion I had drawn from reading their bio on Last.fm was that, as the old agade goes, opposites really do attract, even when it comes to friendship and professionalism in the music biz. Both of these guys are skilled guitarists and superb vocalists—Mark sings high and lofty, James sings husky and low—and that is clearly evident on the opening track, "Her Song"—a terrifically upbeat, wake-up-first-thing-in-the-morning, summertime indie pop/rock jam that delivers a beautiful and fun tribute to a special girl. It was "Her Song" where I immediately found adoration for their overall sound—props especially to their backing band members for the exceptional instrumental accompaniments—as well as their creative and imaginative songwriting. My ears and I felt the most complete on such gems as the thrill ride "As You Are" (that 'let me hear you scream whoa-oh-oh-oh' before the chorus gets me hooked here), the emotionally haunting "Empty Apartment" (if the thought-provoking title doesn't capture your attention, then the lyrics painting the analogy of the empty space to loneliness in a crowded room will) and the equally haunting "Please Forgive Me" (it's not a glitch in your headphones or stereo speakers in the beginning of this song; the distorted audio purposely serves as a metaphor to the emotionally distant, desolate and detached state of the relationship as the songwriter pleas for reconciliation). The theme of forgiveness and reconciliation arises further on "Come Back Home" (you can already feel the tenderness and sincerity as soon as the slowed-down rhythm and the chords breathe into your music senses) while the charming concluding piece, "Just Because", is like a breath of fresh air renewing and reigniting the romance time and time again (the chorus line ' I'll always buy you roses just because ' states it best). In many places on this album, it was just a delight to hear the two college buddies singing—whether in unison on jams like "Till We Said Goodbye", or whether one or the other is taking the main lead vocal duties (the husky-voiced James is definitely the one taking center stage on the quiet, mellow piece, "Beating Of My Heart") while it was a joy to take in their energetic rockin' spirit on tunes like "July Crush", where they've got that carefree, school's-out-for-the-summer thing going on again. I am in total agreement with a Last.fm listener who commented on this Florida duo's page: where are these guys now? Although their former Myspace page is no longer available, at least half of the group is still active. That would be member Mark Russell, who's been releasing singles, albums and EP's as recently as 2011, as seen on his official website at http://www.officialmarkrussell.com/. Proof, then, that these former 22-year-old college seniors who eventually released "The Making Of" still, at least in some form or another, have more marvelous music in the makings:

1. Her Song
2. Till We Said Goodbye
3. Letting Go
4. As You Are
5. Empty Apartment
6. So Perfect
7. Beating Of My Heart
8. Please Forgive Me
9. July Crush
10. Spanish Blues
11. Leap Of Faith
12. Come Back Home
13. Just Because

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