Todd Harrold & Eric Clancy

by Matt Schiebel Real
Besides the cigarette lighter, the least used device in my truck is the radio. Sure, I could fault the local airwaves for confirming to the world that I have morphed into my father’s generation; at least allow me to sprout a few gray hairs before labeling the songs of my youth as “oldies’! Actually, my boycott of the radio has less to do with my denial of impending senility as it does with my quest to treat my ears to music that falls outside the mainstream. So, in order to fulfill my daily jazz fix, I opt for the “bring your own” method, thus rendering my CD changer as the most used device in my truck (closely followed by the caffeine-laden travel mug).

Recently, the Todd Harrold/Eric Clancy collaboration, Real, has been spending some real quality time in my changer, and chances are strong that it won’t escape any time soon. In all honesty, the first time I listened to this project, I felt an instant connection to the groove that runs throughout all eight tracks. On the other hand, it didn’t blow me away either. Before passing judgment, I endeavored to follow the words of wisdom given to me by a music collector/aficionado who advised me to “listen to a record three times, straight through, before you decide whether you like it or not.” Now, after a week of intense listening, the verdict is in: Real has quickly become one of my favorite summertime purchases.

What makes this CD refreshing is really more about what it is not, rather than what it is. Real can’t be defined as a single musical genre. While strongly grounded in R&B, this album is flavored with splashes of funk, blues, jazz and soul. Nor is this a vehicle to showcase Harrold’s vocal chops - you won’t find a three-octave range, dizzying vibrato or blistering scat on any of the cuts. Instead, Harrold uses his smooth resonant voice, coupled with intelligent lyrics, to weave his stories while allowing the talented musicians to enhance his tales by coloring and shading in just the right places. The result is a laid back musical experience enhanced by a variety of textures.

Although I was impressed by the rhythmic variations and attention to subtle detail, I was most impressed by the overall cohesiveness of this project. The entire CD hangs together for one simple reason: it grooves! Regardless of the songs’ tempos, a strong groove permeates every piece (which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Harrold’s reputation as one of Fort Wayne’s most talented percussionists). Rather than grabbing your attention, Real reaches out and draws you in, creating a relaxed mood without losing intensity.

Even though Harrold’s singing is the centerpiece of this album, Clancy deserves considerable credit for his arranging and production talents. By combining software and synthesizers, Clancy incorporates a variety of influences, from the old-school feel of the B-3 organ in ”Michelle in 313.” to the acoustic piano stylings reminiscent of Bill Evans and Joe Sample on “Curve of Forgotten Things.” In addition, Clancy has digitally created supporting roles as the bassist, drummer, orchestra and backup singers (by overdubbing Harrold’s voice), thus giving each song a greater depth than might be expected from a traditional R&B album. Serious listeners will easily ascertain Clancy’s dedication to ensuring that a “cookie-cutter” approach to production has no place on Real.

While Harrold and Clancy possess both the talent and technology to produce their CD as a mere duo, they were wise to enlist the talents of guitarists George Ogg, W. R. Sanders and Sam Smiley. Be sure to check out Smiley’s solo on “Dream At The Same Time”- he breezes through a solo that is both melodic and a bit outside the progression. Without question, these three help kick it up a notch.

Real is available at Clancy’s website, www.ericclancy.com. Help support these great local artists and upgrade your own collection as well. Real is sure to be the finishing touch to a balmy summer evening spent with friends (libations recommended) or to create a little warmth on a winter’s afternoon as you relax in your favorite easy chair. I can also verify that it makes for terrific traveling music, which reminds me: I need to change five of the six CDs in my truck!

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