Five for Fighting - Slice
Record Label: Wind-Up Records
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Here's the thing about Five for Fighting. Either you enjoy John Ondrasik's reedy falsetto or it annoys the @#% out of you. Whatever said feelings are, there's reason to think Ondrasik might be onto something. Five albums and 10 years into an accidental career, he's still writing piano-adorned melodies and digging out hope and inspiration for tweens, soccer moms and those of us that don't have a problem tugging on our own heartstrings.
His latest effort Slice, re-released on Wind-Up Entertainment last month after parting ways with Columbia, offers much of the same as his previous work, but unfortunately does little else. The album's best offerings are lead single "Chances," which appeared on The Blind Side soundtrack, the soaring "Above the Timberline" and the anthemic "Story Of Your Life"
Ondrasik leaves plenty of room for spartan piano arrangements and much of the album is exactly that. Whether this nod towards bare-bones production is intentional or not, the end result feels a bit wooden. Sure he can sing like few others can, but the songs themselves don't really have the punch of prior albums. The two most readily examples are "Tuesday," and "This Dance." For all the inspired moments, the one consistent aspect of the Five for Fighting catalog has been Ondrasik's penchant for writing gleaming koans and bristling social commentaries.
Foremost on this disc is the nostalgia-laden title track and album opener "Slice," the armed-forces homage "Note to the Unknown Soldier" and the saccharine valentine "Transfer." The disc's true apex may be album closer "Augie Nieto," a chill-inducing narrative about an ALS victim that makes its impact long after the disc winds towards a conclusion. There's also an ageless and ornate ballad ("Hope") and a winsome R and B cut ("Love Can't Change the Weather") and yet despite all that, Slice still feels pedestrian.
In the end, Ondrasik might never achieve the titanic heights he found with 2001's "Superman," but chances are (pun unintended) he'll probably do just fine. In addition to being an in-demand songwriter who has penned songs for the likes of Brooks and Dunn and Josh Groban, he's also written a column for Sports Illustrated and has taken ample amounts of time to give back to others.
A celebrated philanthropist, his benevolence knows no bounds. With that penchant for altruism, he's adopted a Web site devoted to various charities and has made a goal of making the world a better place for future generations. One noted example is For the Troops, a compilation CD he conceived and produced. The disc is available for free to every active service person in the armed forces. To date more than 200,000 discs have been distributed to American service men and women throughout the world.
Sure its great to speak of hope and wish for it, but when it's actually said and done is what matters most. Far beyond the recording industry, Ondrasik is doing his part indeed.