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John Garrison - Departures Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 7.25
Production 8.75
Creativity 7.25
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 8.5
Final Verdict: 80%
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John Garrison - Departures

Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (11/30/09)
John Garrison - Departures
Record Label: Johnny Vic Records
Release Date: Nov. 2, 2009


Another year, another underrated British talent? Heard this story before? Don't let that stop you from reading on. British singer-songwriter John Garrison, former lead singer for Universal Recording artists Budapest, is worthy of a bit more than 15 minutes of fame. On his sophomore full-length Departures, the New York City resident utilizes glossy production and a bevy of layers, strings and keys to create an engaging, polished collection of 13 mid-tempo charmers.

The disc starts off with the radio-ready "Let's Run," which is clean and slick and seems to subscribe to the Mat Kearney model of rock. No not the rapping Mat Kearney, City of Black and White Mat Kearney. Garrison has a decent voice but "Let's Run" doesn't exactly allow him to showcase it. Instead, the music takes center stage and the song coasts along in an inoffensive, hummable manner that seems destined to be a crowd-pleaser. The playful "I Leave on Friday," has a bit of a sing-song delivery and the midtempo movement is amiable, confident and inviting. One would not be surprised if the song found its way in Starbucks stores.

Departures first towering achievement comes in the form of "So Close," a gorgeous, far-reaching ballad that's powerful, gripping and heartwrenching. Highlighted by a circular guitar, "So Close" is the kind of song that can most certainly vault Garrison into the American limelight.

The disc's first real misstep is "Footprints," an uptempo rocker that's busy and hurried, but is saved by a rousing orchestra flourish in the song's final two minutes. The Manhattan/Sept. 11 song "Alexander and Annabel," follows and its a wistful ballad that seems almost assured to land on movie or TV soundtracks in the ensuing months."Alexander and Annabel" is the album's first of many indications that Garrison is a first-rate balladeer.

The sparse and quiet "Once Around the Block" has a slight Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright vibe to it that unfortunately isn't repeated on the rest of the disc. Garrison's intonations and vocal inflections are definitely praiseworthy on this effort and if the disc has any drawbacks its that he never soars to this height on the rest of the effort. Whereas his voice is incredibly underwhelming through most of the disc, "Once Around the Block," is the lone exception.

For the rest of Departures Garrison seems to stick to the same script: layers of piano, guitars and orchestra; epic ballads and swelling movements. The brightest examples of this is the triumvirate of "Cold Coffee," "I Want You" and "Go" The former is a shiny rocker that finds the Briton finally finding his stride in an uptempo arrangement, while the latter is a cinematic juggernaut that's grand, triumphant and deeply moving. Sandwiched in the middle is the transcendent "I Want You," another chiming symphony that's proof positive of Garrison's mastery at balladeering.

The disc's penultimate song is the near seven minute "Go," which begins stark and wintry and ends with sweeping strings and a crescendo that's chill-inducing and bone-rattling. Its no surprise that the song was featured in an episode of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." In an effort to soften the edges, the acoustic yarn "2nd For the 1st Time," follows and moves along in a James Blunt-like manner. As a closing track its appropriate but not exactly deeply affecting. Additionally, its hard as a listener to get amped for the song after the moving swells of "Go," but all that being said its not exactly a disaster.

With the exception of the machinated "Rendezvous" which sounds an awful lot like "Footprints," only worse, Departures never really stumbles. From start to finish, Garrison wears his charm on his sleeve. Being that this is his most fully realized album to date, his future is certainly promising and one should expect its only a matter of time before he starts sharing stages with bigger names.

Track Listing 1. Let's Run
2. I Leave on Friday
3. So Close
4. Footprints
5. Alexander and Annabel
6. Once Around the Block
7. Rendezvous
8. Lost
9. Cold Coffee
10. I Want You
11. Go
12. 2nd for the 1st Time


Recommended If You Like David Gray, Glen Hansard, James Maddock, James Blunt, Rod Stewart


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Displaying posts 1 - 5 of 5.
07:40 AM on 12/01/09
#2
And Hours Pass
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As usual, solid writing. I've never listened to Garrison, but I'm somewhat intrigued. The earlier parts of the review and the RIYL David Gray piqued my interest, but the album sounds a bit heavy on the ballads and the RIYL James Blunt really put me off. Have you listened to Daniel Merriweather's Love & War? Would this album be along similar lines in terms of energy with a less soulful vibe?
07:48 AM on 12/01/09
#3
Gregory Robson
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As usual, solid writing. I've never listened to Garrison, but I'm somewhat intrigued. The earlier parts of the review and the RIYL David Gray piqued my interest, but the album sounds a bit heavy on the ballads and the RIYL James Blunt really put me off. Have you listened to Daniel Merriweather's Love & War? Would this album be along similar lines in terms of energy with a less soulful vibe?
That sounds about right. This album is definitely ballad heavy and its not nearly as soulful as that disc. I still recommend giving it a listen.
07:53 AM on 12/01/09
#4
And Hours Pass
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That sounds about right. This album is definitely ballad heavy and its not nearly as soulful as that disc. I still recommend giving it a listen.
Will do. My list of things to listen to now includes: John Garrison, Greg Laswell, Will Hoge, and Norah Jones' new disc.

It's hard for me to shake from my current rotation of Just Jack's All Night Cinema, Mayer's Battle Studies, Cartel's Cycles, and The Jakes' Shake My Hand (I will never get tired of this EP).
08:29 AM on 12/01/09
#5
Gregory Robson
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Will do. My list of things to listen to now includes: John Garrison, Greg Laswell, Will Hoge, and Norah Jones' new disc.

It's hard for me to shake from my current rotation of Just Jack's All Night Cinema, Mayer's Battle Studies, Cartel's Cycles, and The Jakes' Shake My Hand (I will never get tired of this EP).
If it were me, I'd drop Cartel and insert Will Hoge or Laswell. Garrison and Norah can wait. By the way, your musical palate rocks. Just Jack is awesome.
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