Little Space by A Little Space –
Reviewed by Chris Mann
Alan (Big Al) Gruskoff is not only an IT specialist but a composer and
multi-instrumentalist too! His
compositional talents were recognised in 2001 when he was a prize winner
in the Jazz category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.
band A Little Space
delivers his personal
version of jazz-fusion. Gruskoff
himself cites his major influences as Steely Dan, Al Jarreau and Sting.
is the band’s first album and already they are enjoying number one
listings on MP3.com. They
were recently gigging in Las Vegas – now I’m jealous!
is an immediate, “live” feel to Pictures of
You which is a mid-tempo rock song.
It makes me think of Roachford with its swathes of distorted
guitar and muscular bass. When
I first heard this song I’ll be honest, I didn’t like it – I hated
it in fact. Now I find
myself singing it…
there Is is melodramatic with huge keyboard chords and a slow,
deliberate rhythm. The lead
vocal sounds flat at times and the song doesn’t hang together well.
Shame, because I like the lyric a lot.
bought Incognito’s first album “Jazz Funk”, Dean Roubicek’s sax
on the intro to My Own Sweet Time might
make you smile. I find this
song tuneless however, and the mechanical drums wearing.
Alan Gruskoff is a very good player but the bass is too far
forward in the mix and dominates the song.
bass is cleaner on She Walks, She Talks,
the drums still grate but the melody, especially on the chorus, is
strong. It’s hard to pin
down what doesn’t work for me here.
Terrell Moran has a good voice, no question, but it sounds like
he’s used to doing other (more soulful) material.
It doesn’t quite gel together.
of my Life starts out sounding oriental, then more of a power
ballad emerges with jangly guitar and big chords.
I’m still struggling to enjoy the vocal but at least the
heavily-processed Stratocaster solo is a nice one.
chorused guitar works really well on the mellow Need
to Know. The vocal starts to sound like Robert Cray.
If I wanted to describe the overall sound, I’d have to compare
it with Ernie Isley’s “High Wire” CD – and I’d have to say
that Ernie does this better. This
could be a tribute to him – at least guitar-wise.
I’m reaching for the “skip” button when the plot is lost on
the chorus. I’d like to
hear Terrell Moran sing someone else’s material to fully appreciate
sexy fretless bass and clean guitar on Hanging
Around are wasted on a song that’s too slow.
A rhythm this ponderous stifles a vocalist.
This reminds me of ‘70’s Dutch progressive rockers Focus –
musically at least.
the drum machine, push the bass back in the mix.
Big Al handles vocals on this song – and he’s struggling with
a bizarre melody line on Sometimes it’s
surprise is waiting on the more conventional and classy Yes
I Would. It’s got
a sassy Latin sway and that’s added to by a clean guitar, good horn
samples and authentic-sounding percussion. This was the song that won
the prize in 2001 and it’s easy to see why. That soprano sax smokes
and this instrumental is cookin’…
o’ guitar, slap bass and a brooding funk groove – welcome to Pick
and Roll. The
massive reverb on the guitar has shades of Funkadelic’s “Coming
Round the Mountain”. Big
Al’s influences seem to be wider than those he acknowledges on his
in the Road has moody piano, quirky but committed tenor blowing
and funky clavinet sounds all laid over the top of a busy rhythm - the
bass, drums and rhythm guitar crowd each other a little too much.
and with more than its fair share of string samples, Heart
in my Hand is, in Gruskoff’s words “A requiem for the victims
of Sept.11”. Before
I saw his website, I wrote “look for this song as the theme to the
next big hospital drama”. I
prefer Al’s view of things and I feel the sadness of what he’s
Level 42’s Mark King could get away with things like Where
Have you Been and he could only do it in the ‘80’s.
Maybe I should stop there.
first CD, especially one boasting an award-winning song, there is so
much promise here. A
lighter touch on the mixing desk would give a better balanced sound as
would – yes I’m going to say it – live drums.
A mix of vocals and instrumentals is right for today’s NAC
market. In this case I
think Terrell Moran (who has a gospel background) should be given more
room to stretch out and not tied up by complex chord changes which may
be better expressed instrumentally.