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...Something to Be


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So last month, DJ bought me a random present, as he is want to do on occasion - He bought me the new Rob Thomas solo project, "...Something To Be". And I gotta tell you... I haven't been able to stop listening to it or get it out of my head since I started listening to it. It's a little bit old school, definitely has parallels to his MB20 sound, but there's also a whole lot of new sound. And it sounds GOOD. Like with the MB20 camp, Rob Thomas composed or co-composed all of the songs on this disc and used the same producer as he has the whole time with MB20. And yet, even with all of that similar ground, out of the comforts of home comes a totally new, fresh sound and image. I fear that I won't give this disc enough credit, but i can certainly try. This is going to be a track-by-track breakdown if you'll permit me.


It rolls really well between the new and old school sounds, opening with the hard-driving "This is How A Heart Breaks", and only backing off slightly in "Lonely No More", which is a definite turn for the new as far as background tracking goes. The lyrics and vocals are the same old Rob Thomas, though, which I think is really cool. After that the CD slows down into "Ever the Same", which is a light guitar/piano backed ballad about being there for someone in hard times. It has a cool beat and the lyrics are creative. It's a nice break from the opening tracks but doesn't put you to sleep either.


Following that the album picks up the pace again with "I Am An Illusion", which introduces the samplings of vocal group Greater Anointing - think of a harmonic, powerful church choral group with a whole lotta funk rubbed in for good measure. They show up throughout the rest of the album and add a fun sound to the whole experience. "I Am An Illusion" is another song that dives into Rob's new sound, a real industrial backing, but yet again, the lyrics and vocals are all totally Rob. The song expresses the different facets of how a person can be - One lyric that sticks in my head is "I am the Damage, I am the Relief...Sometimes I'm people I never hoped that I would be". Definitely a cool song that stays with you when the album is over.


It slows down again with "When the Heartache Ends", another guitar/piano driven ballad, kinda along the same lines of the previous "ever the same" track. The title track, "Something to Be" has to be my favorite track on the entire album, and one of my higher rated MB20/Rob Thomas tracks EVER. It's got a great mix of the old school MB20 feel with some of the newer, more industrial/pop sound mixed in. It's a powerful track about finding one's identity, which has to be difficult for someone with celebrity status. This is the song that I roll the windows down, crank up, and belt out in the car. People look at me weird but I just get so into this song.


"All that I am" slows the album down once more with a very eastern sound. An interview with Rob revealed that the song is a very honest perspective on God and His message. He brought in a seven-piece orchestra that consisted of musical instruments that were invented and used somewhere around 7 A.D. One gentleman was the proud and protective owner of a particular kind of ancient harp and required payment in full, up front, before he would even take the instrument from it's case. The end result is a wild-sounding track that's totally from left-field, however it's a powerful and grounding piece of music all at the same time.


The next three songs, "Problem Girl", "Fallin to Pieces" and "My My My" are all a bit of filler, good songs, but not nearly as memorable. By this point in the CD, the fast-slow-fast-slow rollercoaster of emotions you've been on has left you pretty exhausted, and so these three tracks give you some time to compose yourself while giving you some classic Rob Thomas goodness.


To start bringing the curtain down on this endeavor, Rob invited John Mayer in to offer his guitar prowess on "Streetcorner Symphony", a good-day-life-is-good-everyone-come-together kinda song. It's a track that really showcases the vocal capabilities of the members of Greater Anointing. I firmly believe that these folks really made this track what it is. John Mayer's guitar work is fun and funky and carries well without being overwhelming. Rob's lyrics are fun and uplifting and really bring you back into the groove of the album.


The disc ends on a soft note with "Now Comes The Night", a song about growing old together with someone you love, and facing death, but not fearing it. It's really a beautiful song, recorded late at night with just Rob and his piano. It has a simple melody, and Rob's vocal talent really shines through here. It's not hard to be passionate when you're screaming a rock song, but when you're alone in a room with a piano, if you can unwaveringly sing a tune like this and still reach out, grab your listener by the heart, and take them on the ride you're on and leave them affected at the last breath of the song, you've got a true gift. This is what "Now Comes The Night" does to you. It works on two levels - One, allows you to relax after the rollicking songs like "I am An Illusion" and "Something to Be", and it gives you a nice sense of closure to the disc - More than once I've listened to CDs by various artists who really took you for a ride with their music, and then left you hanging at the end of the disc - It annoyed me to no end. But with "...Something to Be", you feel comfortably satisfied with it.


I've always been a fan of Matchbox Twenty, and Rob Thomas' sound. A lot of fairweather fans probably got their noses bent out of shape when Rob went solo, fearful that his term with Matchbox Twenty had come to a close, but I have to say that I'm more than pleased and not a bit surprised that he pulled it off. Matchbox Twenty is still very much a musical group. After a career of writing that spans almost two decades, though, I think ol' Rob just needed a break. Kinda like I need a break from all this writing. Whoo!


But seriously. If you can, get this album. If you can't, let me know, and I'll send you a copy. I really think everybody from all musical backgrounds will be able to listen and appreciate and enjoy this collection.

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