JJ Crowne – Songs of Innocence and Experience
Review by J.D. Stefan
J. J. Crowne is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who makes his debut with Songs of Innocence and Experience. Crowne is a veteran sideman/journeyman who has spent most of his musical time composing jingles, theatrical music and television themes as well as producing other artists. His debut finally gives him the chance to step out on his own and showcase his considerable talents.
The first track “Only Time” is an upbeat pop-rock flavored tune with some great hooks and production. The vocal arrangement stands out as a highlight especially considering the fact that Crowne played and sang all the parts and instruments. “Toy Soldiers” was a standout track for me, a heartfelt take on soldiers leaving for service while their toy soldiers remain behind. “Lies We Lived Before” is another upbeat tune with Crowne’s vocals evoking a bit of Phil Collins. Crowne has his own style but one can definitely hear the influence of 70s melodic rock and pop and there’s places where that sound is reminiscent of James Taylor and the great singer-songwriter genre of that period.
The production elements in Crowne’s work are exceptional. This is a well-balanced set of tracks, consistent, clear and punchy. Crowne’s vocals sit nicely above the instrumentation and allow the listener to connect with his heartfelt, inspirational and sincere lyrics and emotive delivery. There is also a nice variety of sounds blending in strings, different guitar textures and tones and as mentioned previously, some great backing vocal arrangements. He has produced a batch of well-crafted songs on this release and the quality and passion (he describes the release as a “labor of love”) is evident and sure to attract fans of his style. His challenge will be to draw fans of an “easy listening” genre since many of the tracks tend to lean towards ballads and light-rock. There are a few cliches in the production relating to the sounds (mostly around the drum tracks) and the CD would benefit from some modern sounds and techniques as it balances delicately on the edge of sounding dated. That said, the tracks are all well-written, well-produced and well-performed. Crowne sings from the heart and should be very happy with his efforts here.
Crowne has produced a thoughtful and expressive set of songs with “Songs of Innocence and Experience”. That title really sums up the CD as you can truly hear the innocence in his writing as well as his considerable experience showing through in the performance and production. Fans of light rock and easy listening as well as those who appreciate well-crafted, uplifiting and inspirational tracks should take Crowne and his Songs of Innocence and Experience for a spin.