Wayne Olivieri’s career has saw him opening for some of the music world’s biggest names over the last three decades, fostering long standing friendships with some of the most popular and talented performers popular music has ever seen, while still resolutely remaining true to his muse. This is a performer, likewise, with tremendous character who even stepped away from the spotlight for a time to help raise a child. The experiences of a lifetime, along with a generous surplus of fun, go into his latest recording, the thirteen song collection Eclectic Mind. This is a smorgasbord of musical approaches that never feels forced and shows off a performer who’s apparently comfortable with any style and can handle them all with the same degree of finesse and emotion. The production is strong, but it lacks across the board consistency – some of the cuts seem like polished high-end studio recordings while others have a more DIY sound not far removed from demos. It doesn’t affect the songwriting presentation, however – everything emerges with clarity regardless of the surrounding sonic architecture.
He kicks things off with a love song. “She’s My Girl” finds great happiness in seemingly mundane things that his love does for him and the pride in sharing his life with such a figure comes glowing through. The music has a strongly individualistic slant – it’s certainly pop, but pop in the best possible sense, and stays quite accessible despite its slightly unusual approach. “I’m a Music Man” is the album’s first foray into outright rock and it’s a muscular, hard-hitting track that gives Olivieri a chance to explore his surprisingly wide vocal range. There’s gloriously emphatic qualities present in this song – when Olivieri sings about his life in music, you can’t help but believe him. “So Bad To You” hinges primarily on some shimmering, but jagged, piano lines that come in briefly descending flurries. The patient drumming helps anchor the song further, but the undisputed highlight of the performance is a pained, powerfully emotive vocal from Olivieri.
“I’m In Love Again” is a sumptuous piano ballad with some light keyboard coloring hovering in the background and nothing else. This forces listeners to focus even more intently on Olivieri’s voice and, instead of delivering a by the numbers formulaic love song ballad, “I’m in Love Again” takes its time getting under listeners skin and never seems plotted out or fake. “Never Made A Stand” dispenses with the discreet keyboard coloring in favor of going completely naked. This is just Olivieri’s voice and the accompanying piano. Both instruments dovetail nicely into the other and form a greater whole that will touch all but the most cynical of hearts. “Glory” is a pulse racing uptempo rocker guaranteed to bring people out of their seats and engage them physically. “You Gotta Work” is a powerful and boisterous jump blues rocker with horns and a rambunctious vocal from Olivieri. It’s another song that’s emblematic of the risk taking that pays off running throughout the entirety of Eclectic Mind. This is a highly imaginative musical release, as imaginative as anything you are likely to hear in 2017, and hopefully gets plenty of opportunities to be heard.
8 out of 10 stars