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Five vocal cuts merge with five instrumentals on Marcus Singletary's Early Works. "That's the Way It Is" kicks it off with a narrator whose skepticism becomes the prime justification for their selfish disregard of others. It and "Train" are drenched in blues harp. "Train" describes a breakaway from conventional social expectations, while "Devil's Rage" adds B-movie fantasy flavor to a heavy rock template inspired by the Deep Purple songs "Fireball" and "Listen, Learn, Read On." Its characters reach Armageddon-laced epiphanies before God (identified as "The Man Himself") appears to battle the demon in the flesh.
The hope-dealing politician in "Super Tuesday" compromises personal integrity in search of support from all sides of the ideological spectrum. Its funky, minimalist groove leads into the acid-splashed drug trafficker tale "Come and Get It." Then, a switch flips.
A live take of "Open for Business" ushers in the instrumental half and offers a chance to digest Marcus' jazzier side. His front-and-center guitar extrapolations result from the fluidity that slippery "Chicago Stomp" (written during his days as an undergrad) exhibits. In free-form mode like John Coltrane or Larry Coryell, this and "I Want Someone to Love" (which served as Marcus' final project as a post-grad music student) are new renditions of old compositions engineered by Bob Olhsson. A 50-year record industry vet, Olhsson is renowned for his tech work on Marvin Gaye's iconic 1971 album What's Going On, but Marcus says of the collaboration, "I gravitated toward working with Bob after hearing his contributions to recordings by San Francisco psychedelic groups Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead."
Containing nine tracks featuring Marcus on all instruments, Early Works concludes with "Highway Patrol" and "Wind and Wuthering," and both exist on the outermost edges of creativity. Overall, the album displays what Marcus is capable of with few outside cooks in his kitchen. The effect is best described as one that transports fans to musical galaxies shaped by the style the artist has forged for himself, and meant to challenge the listener's comfort zone.
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