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Baked Goods: One of Those Things
by George Graham
(Independent Release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/28/2015)
Jam bands have taken a number of forms, from zoned-out guitar noodling to tight, funky grooves, to world-music influence, to virtuosic fusion ensembles who can make some significant music in the context of their improvisations. And while the 1990s seemed to be the heyday of the jam bands, last year saw new releases by the three most significant groups currently on the scene, the String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee and Moe. Each of those bands have their own distinctive approach to the genre. Another big influence to the scene has been the Dave Matthews Band, though they were not always lumped in with the jam band scene. But their influence can be felt in an impressive new album by a young quintet from Long Island quintet called Baked Goods, whose second CD is called One of Those Things.
Baked Goods goes in for a somewhat funky groove but also gets into breezy folky rock tunes with an acoustic guitar at the center. And like the Dave Matthews Band, there is a prominent sax in the group’s sound. The folkiness comes from Asa Daniels, who is the lead vocalist and principal songwriter. His instrument is the acoustic guitar. Other members include Josh Hyman on electric guitar and Dan Janis on sax. Cory Azmon is on bass who has classical training, according to the band’s bio. The drummer is Glenn Chiarello. They formed in 2012 and released their debut album called Fresh Out of the Oven the following year. The new release, One of Those Days involved an outside co-producer and engineer, James Meslin. The new album captures a group that really has their “chops” together, as they say. The musicianship is first rate and while the band does stretch out a little on some of the album’s tracks, the music is well-structured and runs toward the more tightly composed end of the jam-band spectrum. And like many jam bands, their compositions are oriented more toward the music than the words. A lot of it could be party music in a way. The band, amusingly, describe themselves on their website as “a bunch of dudes who make sexy music for sexy people.”
It’s a relatively short album clocking in at under 40 minutes, but with the web and download sales deconstructing the concept of an album, I suppose that is not so much a factor. But their music does have enough coherence that it still makes the concept of an album viable.
Nevertheless, the CD configuration starts with a tune which could be considered something of an anthem or theme song for the group A Good Time. It combines the attractive aspects of Baked Goods’ sound, the tight funky rhythms, Asa Daniels’ appealing vocals and a composition that has some interesting facets to the arrangement. <<>>
The following track L.W.I., is a song that was also included in their first album, though this version is a little lighter and airier in sound. It continues the group’s upbeat but funky rhythmic groove. <<>>
Asa Daniels’ acoustic guitar is never far from the surface, and several tracks feature it fairly prominently in the arrangement. The song called Hey Now is a kind of airy party tune, with appropriately light lyrics. <<>>
One of the more musically interesting pieces on the album is Get In Line which take a harder edged sound at times but with some twists. Lyrically it’s also the strongest on the album, taking up the classic subject of coming up against some kind of powerful dehumanizing force. <<>>
With a somewhat similar lyrical direction is a song called Just Another Nobody in Somebody. Musically the piece is an interesting contrast between its different sections, But even when it gets rocky it has Asa Daniels’ acoustic guitar as an anchor. <<>>
In the CD’s package, rather than providing band members names or other useful information, Baked Goods reproduce a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem The Secret of the Sea in an unreadable font. Presumably the song Sailing Free was inspired by that. It’s another of the group’s easy-going tracks that is both airy in sound and also features a good danceable groove. <<>>
The CD ends with The Child which is another highlight of the album, alternating between a folky sound and a more energetic rock approach. <<>>
One of Those Things, the new album by the Long Island based band Baked Goods deftly straddles the jam band realm and an almost folky sound. The material has an acoustic guitar at its core but frequently tends toward an infectious funky beat, with good playing all around. The presence of the sax and acoustic guitar may evoke the sound of the Dave Matthews Band, and I don’t think the group would deny some influence there. But they go their own way and come up with a distinctive sound that is appealing, that can serve as party music but also has a lot of interesting musical ideas. With the short length of the CD, the band is not featured stretching out with any extended improvisations, but the material could certainly allow it, and the playing is good enough to support holding their own in a jam band setting.
For an audio quality grade, we’ll give the CD a B-plus. The sound is generally clean, especially the vocals, in an era when over-driven distorted vocals seem to be becoming a fad. But as is so often the case, the recording was compressed to make it uniformly loud, which sapped the dynamics of their performance.
Baked Goods are an impressive emerging band who managed to create a nice hybrid sound of jam, funk, rock and even folk influence and the potential to be quite appealing to audiences spanning a couple of generations..
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