“She Colors My World”, the 5th and latest album by award-winning Radio Drive featuring Kevin Gullickson, is pretty much a progressive pop-rock affair. As simple as that. There is nothing here that wants to stretch itself out of the canons of such a well-defined genre blend. On the contrary, the music on the album revolves around what has made progressive rock what it is today: complex dynamics, a wide range of styles harmoniously compressed to form a variegated compound. The pop and catchy art-rock elements that have marked Radio Drive’s previous releases are still present both in the lyrics and in the music in ways that almost go beyond their usual duty as mere accessories. There is an overarching, epic, major label feeling pervading the album, from the very first spin. And a lot of this has to do with Kevin having worked – from past to present – with producer by Chris Garcia (Adele and Katy Perry), Stuart Epps (Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Twisted Sister, George Harrison, Robbie Williams, Bad Company and more) and on his latest album with Robert L. (Paul McCartney, U2, David Bowie, Aerosmith and many more) who did the final mastering.
The album opener, “Horizon”, is one of the most meticulously composed pieces in the Radio Drive catalogue. It’s a very entertaining song and not just because it’s an extravagant spectacle of creativity, but because it has a set of alluring harmonies. The track kicks-off with an enthralling demeanor that brings some past Yes tracks to mind.
The spontaneous energy on this track serves as a kind of ascension that takes us into a much more emotive sublimity on “A New Start”. Kevin Gullickson directs the piece into a fluidly rhythmic mid-tempo epic, with squealing lead lines, strumming acoustic guitars and rich strings.
The intimate synergy that the keyboards and vocal melodies are working on throughout “Sweet Thing” are something that will bewilder the senses in awe. This entire song is a melodic voyage through musical passages that are governed by understated virtuosity – both instrumentally and in the vocal arrangements.
There’s a variety of influences all mingling together at once throughout “Forever I Do”, with its crunchy overdriven guitar interludes, but the catchy pop aspects are the most obvious of all, especially in the vocal hooks.
“Every Road” is another mellifluous piece, and a rather innovative one because it manages to add a wondrous sense of beauty to the jangling undertones that carry out the rhythm and the massive synth strings that come sliding in and out. This is followed by the cover of “Hey Bulldog”, taken from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album. Just like the original, plenty shine is given to the great guitar and bass work.
“Time To Rise” is one of my favorite songs on the album. Its melody leaves us sinking deeply within its emotive waves of melancholia that suddenly deliver eruptive vocal outbursts, adding a sense of excitement to the piece.
“Life As It Should Be” emphasizes on elaborate arranging and technical work, but it manages to orchestrate them in a manner that is captivatingly euphonic. Despite all the virtuosic musicianship and fantastic harmonies on this record, the songs on this album makes this very much a narrative-driven record.
This is also strongly evidenced on both “Life As It Should Be” and the closing track “Waiting”, where the lyrical themes are communicated in a manner that is easy to connect to. Lyrically, Kevin Gullickson avoids the grandiose and instead opts to tell powerful stories about real life experiences.
The level of compositional complexity is always harmonized to that of the lyrical narrative. The songs with straight-forward lyrical content are structurally simpler, while the songs with more nuanced stories have more dynamic song structures. But what makes “She Colors My World” an outstanding album is undoubtedly the music.
This is an accessible, sonic effort sounding like a clever compendium of influences filtered through the talent of one of the better underground indie rock composers around, rather than just another record aping something else. There’s a very good chance the personable stories and delectable melodies of “She Colors My World” will win you over.