Todd O’Keefe, Uptown. Album Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

The working musician seems to always be around, playing away to the crowd but never being recognised fully for their achievements or prowess unless they step into the limelight and take on the responsibility of opening up their heart to an audience that might prefer them to be in the shadows.

Los Angeles resident Todd O’Keefe has had the good fortune to work with some of the world’s greats including the indomitable Ray Davies, Elvis Costello and Beck, it is in that chance to express in what is quite obviously a sublime talent just itching to be set free and communicate his own ideas and musical designs. It is an itching that sees a realisation scratch in the tremendous album Uptown.

Like many who understand the space in between the notes, Todd O’Keefe knows when to play and beguile but also when to leave a little magic hanging in the air, like the note of the roaring sea as it hits the cliffs and the unheard swell that rips the tidal wave along from underneath; this magic is pivotal in creating the music on offer and one that is a splendid moment to savour.

The days of the L.A. power pop quartet The 88 may be behind him but as Uptown shows, the music is there to move the listener onwards, to allow them to find their own expression in dealing with memories and the awkwardness of realisation. In tracks such as The Day She Said Goodbye, Highwayman, the fantastic Laughing Gas For The Idle Class and Misty’s Always Late, the debut solo album is not only inventive but it sits in harmony in the creation it has made. Like a gentle eggshell hidden in the forest it is at risk of being hunted down and turned into a collector’s trophy, one that never sees daylight, yet it is actually well guarded, mothered and fathered and maintained without the need for a poacher to take the yoke of songs that clearly have been raised right by Todd O’Keefe.

What stands out in this recording is the lack of decoration, this is beautifully raw without any need to take the music into a realm in which the unnatural would be seen as an ornament, the embroidered falsehood, this is not what the music or the musician can be seen to clearly want and it is heartening that possible exaggeration has been dismissed and tossed aside.

A beautiful set of songs captured with only the search for the positive in mind, Uptown is to be applauded.

Ian D. Hall