A Second Album That Elevates This Talented Young Man To A Whole Other Strata Altogether.
For many people who were once heralded as a child prodigy, the path to prolonged success can be fraught and disappointing; so many never seem to fulfil all that early promise.
That ‘prodigy’ badge is both a blessing and a curse, plus for the artist, an unnecessary millstone.
Quinn Sullivan certainly qualifies for the description and follows a long line of such ‘prodigies’ in the music world; i.e. Doug Sahm, Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood & Derek Trucks to name a just a few.
At 21 years of age, this inchoate musician from Massachusetts has already experienced so much more than 99.99% of aspiring performers, having the benefit of being under the guidance of Buddy Guy and releasing 3 previous albums (since 2011), all involving multi-Grammy winner Tom Hambridge. You can also add to his resume all the various live TV appearances and an array of gigs that include three Montreux Jazz Festivals and an Eric Clapton Crossroads Festival.
Wide Awake marks a vicissitude crossroads of his own, with a significant change of producer/collaborator, this time travelling to LA to work with Oliver Leiber (Paula Abdul, Ke$ha and Adam Lambert) with an obvious prescient to encompass much more than just his fabulous pluripotent guitar playing and strong singing voice. Although Quinn has always considered himself a songwriter, preparing for this album has seen him increase his efforts with pen and paper, concentrating on the lyrics and melodies with Leiber that will elevate his craft, not just for Wide Awake but for further albums down the road.
So, I hear you ask, has it worked on this, his fourth album. Well, from my perspective it’s very much a resounding yes. Much more of a mainstream rock effort with lots of hooks, overall it contains scale, scope and colours (not just blue) that project a whole gamut of sub-styles.
“Baby Please” could quite easily have been a cover of a Ed Sheeran effort, while “In A World Without You” has a distinctive Latin feel, and then “She’s So Irresistible” has the twin cities funk of Prince Rogers Nelson all over it.
“She’s Gone (and She Ain’t Coming Back)” starts off like a Coldplay classic but then vocally it moves into different territory; whilst lyrically there are some superb references,
“we made love to Marvin;
singing girl let’s get it on;
baby I’ve heard it all through the grapevine;
that we’re done, that we’re done”
followed by a beaut of a chorus.
It gets a little harder and bluesier with the punchy “Strawberry Rain;” with its ‘Oasis sounding like The Beatles’ chorus bolstered by an iconic wah wah guitar solo straight out of the Hendrix catalogue.
“Jessica” provides some further poignant lyrics that recall another long lost love, with yet another memorable chorus “what do you see when you look in the mirror;
cos I see an innocent child;
Jessie I know you’d feel better inside;
if you could just see yourself through my eyes”.
For a 21 year old many of these lyrics are quite remarkable.
Honestly, there are no iffy fillers on here, but the King Magpie will want me to select my favourites.
The accolade almost fell to the song that was released as a teaser single, earlier this year, the anthemic “All Around The World” with its empowering message of positivity and hope.
But, I’m now leaning toward the blue eyed Soul of “How Many Tears” that sounds like it has come straight out of Philadelphia; sung by Hall & Oates at their almighty zenith.
Sullivan and Leiber have cast their net far and wide to encompass an entertaining range of musical influences into creating this enchanting album; and without any shadow of a doubt Messrs Guy & Hambridge helped create the very sturdy platform from where Quinn evolved and developed his awesome natural guitar skills and robust singing style. However, Wide Awake elevates this talented young man on to another strata, an altogether higher level that ought to ensure that he reaches a much, much wider audience.