Sunday, December 11, 2005


American Idol runner-up, Bo Bice, will release his debut album The Real Thing this coming Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005. This reviewer got his hands on an advance copy of it, but has taken a while to listen to it several times before judging it. Typically, I have three tests I give a CD before I give a final rating on it.

The first test is the MP3 Test. I rip the CD onto my hard drive and listen to it through computer speakers. This shows me how well the disc holds up on less-than-adequate sound systems as well as how much it can hold my interest when I'm at home with various other things I could be doing. The second test is the Car Test, which is when I put the disc in my car stereo system to see what it sounds like on a nice full system at an increased volume. The third test is the Girlfriend Test, which is when I play the disc for my girlfriend to hear. She's not a music connoisseur, and her tastes tend to run toward mainstream, so I can tell by her reaction how the general public will likely react to the music.

So for the first test, I ran the album through Winamp, laid back on my bed, and tried to listen to the whole album. Somewhere in the second track, my mind started wandering, and I found myself not listening to the album very much. I tried to tune back in, and I thought that maybe there would be something on the album that would attract my attention and bring me back. That only happened a couple of times. That's not to say there aren't good hooks on the album, but for the most part every song sounds the same.

Not being impressed with the first run-through, I decided it was time for the Car Test, so I popped the disc in and ran around town. I listened this time for musical quality. There's a lot of good instrumentation in the album, and the guitar sound overpowers just about everything. Seriously, I thought occasionally the guitars would drown out Bo's voice from time to time. Not that Bo's background singers aren't already doing that for him. At times, I wondered if Bo hadn't just slipped out the back door and let the studio singers and musicians fill in for maybe 15 minutes. All in all, Bo's voice sounded like it had been run through several filters and been mechanically tweaked. I've never really believed much in over-production, but this disc definitely was over-produced.

After this test, I pretty much had my own opinion figured out. I felt that it wasn't a bad CD, but it also was anything but stellar. Watching Bo on Idol, one kind of gets the feeling that he would sound best unplugged. In fact, that was how he won most of his favor on Idol, by doing songs that were stripped down (and in one case, acapella.) This CD is anything but that. It forsakes Bo's God-given talent for southern rock and throws him squarely into the camp of what would probably be Gavin DeGraw and Nickelback's love child. One thing that really bothered me, also, is that the lyrics are often hokey and trite. Bo uses every single ballad cliche you've ever heard, so there's nothing profound here. For his next disc, Bo should really throw out the synthesizers and get further back to roots rock and Skynyrd, which is why we loved him in the first place.

So, having formed that opinion, I subjected the disc to the Girlfriend Test. She wholeheartedly disagreed with me. She thought it was an incredible CD. On this particular date, we must've run the disc through 3 times, and she never got tired of it. Her opinion seems to be that it's one of the best CDs she's heard recently.

With that in mind, I re-evaluated my perception, but only slightly. If one could put aside Bo's previous image as a southern-rock singer, I believe the album would be slightly less disappointing. To be sure, there are a lot of good melodies here. Radio will surely eat them alive. If you're looking for an Allman Brothers revival, this ain't the place, but if you're looking for good, safe, mainstream rock, this is your disc. Mainstream audiences are going to love this. Pop audiences will love it. Rock audiences will pass completely over it.

The disc is also available with special features which this reviewer has not yet seen. You can check out what's available as well as order this disc at Amazon.

I will say this: if Bo ever releases an acoustic version of this album, I am so totally there. Till then, this CD gets only 7 stars out of 10.


At 10:37 PM, Anonymous michael said...

My mind typically starts to wander a lot when I listen to new pop music. It's a bit frustrating, especially when I want to try to like it. Then I just realize I don't like it, and go back to listening to Zepp and 80s/90s college rock. Pretty sad.

Oh yeah, and watch out for those rootkits.

At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that the ladies love Bo's cd but the men are highly critical of it? I sense a little envy out there! For a debut album it's not bad but' I find myself playing it over and over. Bo's voice is sooooo Cool!! Can't wait 'till tickets go on sale and hope that he does more of his own writing in the next album..Rock On

At 7:02 PM, Blogger J.D. said...

I'm not saying it's a BAD cd. It's just not a particularly groundbreaking one either. Typical overproduction. Bo has talent, but it was better as used in his American Idol days when there was very little production. I listened again to his acapella version of that Badlands song that he did on the Bo/Carrie/Vonzell episode, and it's WAY better than anything on this CD.


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