For those not in the know, Mike Shannon is not only the founder of 4th Ward (2000) and Big Bus Dream (2006), but a product of CBGB's post-punk scene.
Indeed, 4th Ward's self-titled release debuted at #20 on CMJ's Top 200 National Charts whilst Big Bus Dream's debut album (2006), and The Jesters of Xmas Town (2008) both topped several European music charts, and were even featured in MTV's Pimp My Ride.
Now 4th Ward announces Mike Shannon's debut solo effort, My Dream My Fantasy. Encompassing his 18 years as founder and primary writer with 4th Ward and Big Bus Dream, it blends both his acoustic roots, as well as a more powerful electric arrangement.
Someone we here at Exclusive Magazine have worked with for a decade or so now, Shannon is one of those rare breeds of musician within the business: He knows and understands lyrics, their aspect of storytelling, creating visuals in the listener's minds, and so creates songs that tell tales whilst dutifully lingering within us thereafter.
And that's just what is laid bare here in front of us now with My Dream My Fantasy for Shannon's stories include subjects from drug addiction, Alzheimer's Disease, aging and gun violence, to name but a few.
Produced by Shannon, along with Eddie Z, Jamie Hoover and Ray Henderson, My Dream My Fantasy includes new tunes, along with hand-picked prior tunes re-tracked and re-mastered.
As Shannon himself has said, "All of my time, heart and energy over the last 18 years has led to this new release...because, in the end that's really what it's been...my passion and my dream. Though often felt more like a fantasy".
1. 'Just A Tear'
2. 'Really Tired'
3. 'See It In Her Eyes'
4. 'Jones Is In The House'
5. 'Smoking Guns and Jesus'
6. 'Maybe This Time'
7. 'Already Gone'
8. 'Private Ghetto'
9. 'Sweet Kisses'
11. 'Feel The Pain'
12. 'Growing Old With Me'
13. 'No Valentine For You'
14. 'Real Love'
We begin with the upbeat, finger-snappin', toe-tappin' 'Just A Tear', which he backs up seamlessly with both 'Really Tired' and one of my own personal favorites on this debut solo album, 'See It In Her Eyes.' The psychedelic vibe to 'Jones Is In The House' makes for a fantastic flashback to an era where no music of that ilk was ever seemingly unjust, and that's followed by the pop country-stacked-entities within jangling guitar work of 'Smoking Guns And Jesus'.
The piano ballad 'Maybe This Time' is yet another stand out, heartfelt track that will definitely resonate with all of us that have loved and lost (whether it was our fault or not), and that's followed by 'Already Gone' and the Dylanesque raw warmth of 'Private Ghetto.' The upbeat, flowery 'Sweet Kisses' is delightful in its simplicity, 'Lies' is a pretty song every which way, and the gentle drum and guitar funk of 'Feel The Pain' is a nice turn of pace.
Another stirring piano ballad comes in the form of 'Growing Old With Me', before the album rounds out with the ragtag, old school semi-punk roustabout of 'No Valentine For You,' and then 'Real Love.' A track that bookends this album perfectly, give that it also features the same finger-snappin', foot-tappin' vibe and melody as the opener, My Dream My Fantasy is, quite easily, one of my top 3 albums of 2017. Buy it today as I'm sure, once listened to, that you will all wholeheartedly agree.
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk