By: Scott Peterson – Staff Writer
Many big-name artists received recognition for their work at the Grammy awards recently. Their music is heard around the world, but local artists with a smaller following can be just as powerful. Gem City proved itself a local band with professional material with its debut full-length album, “Redux.”
This album taps into the nostalgia factor for anyone who attended the University of Dayton when members of the band were students here. Back then, it was called Customer Service and the Gem City Horns. The music on the album takes me back to when I was a first-year student discovering this wonderful music at the battle of the bands or at house parties. If music can take you back to a certain part of your life, that alone makes it worth a listen.
With Gem City’s first album, fans see the true talent of the group’s dynamics. “Redux” doesn’t showcase just one of these talented musicians; it gives everyone a moment in the spotlight. This provides listeners with a variety of ballads, funky songs you can dance to and pump up music.
“Redux” hits the ground running with its first song, “Gotta Get Up (Before You Get Down).” The song starts with funky guitar riff that you can’t help but dance to. There is also a saxophone solo that shows off the musical ability of band member Matt Schroeder.
“Mr. Good Lookin’” is my favorite song on the album because it doesn’t hold back from start to finish. It proves that Gem City is a throwback act, and would fit perfectly in the songbook of older artists like James Brown or Little Richard. This similarity is clearly heard in Will Morris’s voice. He maintains his excitement and composure to sing well. The catchy horn section topped with its pounding beat allows for this song to be fun from start to finish.
The band slows the music down just a little, but not too much with “They Know Me.” This song was released as a single before the rest of the album, and even has a music video worth checking out. This song keeps it sexy and sensual with its lyrics, prominent saxophone and smooth guitar. This song really showcases the band’s jazz roots.
“Automatic” changes the sound from funk, rhythm and blues to pure rock. I’d compare it to “The Distance” by Cake, but I don’t hold this against them because I’d still consider it a pump-up song. The song ends with a transition, a sound effect of an airplane taking off that sets the stage for “Premium Airlines.”
“Premium Airlines” is the most unique song on the album because it mixes the art of storytelling with poetry. It starts with a soothing rhythm being played on the keyboard, but instead of vocals, a poetry-like narrative is read. The lyrics are read as if the lead singer is a pilot on a plane talking on a microphone to his passengers. As the song progresses, the pilot’s inability to fly the plane becomes more evident and the background music becomes increasingly more hectic. This track creates a truly engaging experience.
The track “Shootout” shows the band’s ability to explore different genres, starting with a lone trumpet playing desperado music that’s reminiscent of any Clint Eastwood Western movie. The band then takes this type of music and molds it into an R&B jam session with trumpet, guitar and saxophone solos. The song, along with a few others on the album, is entirely instrumental, but the music is so captivating that I hardly noticed the lack of vocals.
“Funk It Up” concludes the album. This track is what I like to think of as Gem City’s bread and butter. This is the sound I fell in love with when I first heard them play as a first year at UD. The song starts with a big band sound using the whole section, and each member’s passion can be heard in the song’s slick lyrics. It speaks to the struggles of being successful in the business, but does so optimistically.
After listening to “Redux,” I am convinced that student artists can become professional musicians if they’re willing to put forth the effort. This album taps into nostalgia for many and introduces the rest to the best UD has to offer. “Redux” is triumph for the band, and I can’t wait to see what Gem City does next.