Aaron Mayer Frankel ‘Behind Those Eyes’ (Private Press) 2/5

aaron-mayer-frankelFrankly Mr Frankel it’s all a bit confusing. The first time I put this album on, my initial thoughts went like this… This guy’s got a great voice. His songs don’t quite cut it, but what a promising voice. I was in the middle of writing a song that went along the lines of; I won’t give up on you Aaron, with a voice like John Martyn, I won’t give up on you Aaron, with a voice like John Martyn, even if your songs are like an old Mini Clubman, not a brand new Aston Martin. So I gave up on that pretty quickly for obvious reasons. It should be pointed out however, that my intentions were true. Here’s this guy with an incredible voice, reminiscent of the late, great John Martyn, but who’s tunes are just a bit pants. But I was willing to give him the benefit of my doubt, thinking that if this is a debut album, if this guy learns how to play the guitar better and write some meaningful tunes, he has the voice to take on the world. Alas, no press release came with the album. So once again I resort to google. On finding his website I discover that actually this might be his third or fourth release. Oh damn I thought, there goes my hopes that he might mature into a great singer-songwriter. With hardly any info available on the website I looked more closely at the release dates. And it says this album was released in the year 2000. Really? I don’t know, maybe that was a mistake. But then why have we been sent this album for review? I don’t know, it’s all just far too confusing for a tired old impatient man like me. I was just hoping to hear something special when I heard him sing.

So, due to a lack of information, let’s focus on the music at hand. “Faith in hand” is a promising opening track. Nice and lazy, laid back. Frankel’s no Nick Drake but this is nice, likeable. Indie-folk in style, this tune has a very slight country feel to it, country in the way that Johnny Cash was country, not Dolly Parton. The problem is however, that what I was hoping might develop into a great album, actually went downhill from there. The title track is a bit more Dylan-esque but that’s where the comparison stops. It’s also where the doubts begin. Whilst some of Frankel’s guitar picking is rather nice, there are other times where it sounds a bit lacking in skill. Not always a key issue, but on an album where it is just guitar and voice throughout, the poor execution does stand out somewhat. I do like the songwriter’s voice- especially on some of his slightly higher singing, but again, there are some tuning issues that spoil the flow. And the writing is just a bit lacking. He might be a storyteller but rather than wanting to hear and find out more, I’m just left thinking; so what, I’m just not interested. There is a highlight I must mention; on “Produce Market” Frankel does deliver the classic line “Maybe we need vegetables, as much as we need rock and roll.” Excellent. “Jersey Wall” shows a bit of class with its lovely off-kilter style and delivery. Most of the tunes though just come and go, like stories from a storyteller who either doesn’t have much to say or can’t quite be bothered to make a decent effort at conveying to the listener the whys and wherefores of his tales. Some of the tunes begin with real promise, like “Truckstop”, with its cool vibe. But the tunes don’t seem to develop or go anywhere. There are nice vocal harmonies on “Amsterdam”, with Frankel sounding more and more like a pissed off Evan Dando. Which I like, a lot.

“What’s behind those eyes” has a ‘can’t be bothered’ feel to it. Which could have been very good, but ultimately leaves the listener wondering why they bothered. He does have a great voice though. Did I mention that already? It’s worth mentioning again. If only his songs were as wonderful. Maybe one day they will be. We live in hope.

Mike Gates