November 28, 2005

Rise Paul Ric "Purple Blaze"

Talk about a musical departure! Christopher Paul Richards was a founding member of DC-area punk-funkers Q and Not U. They blended politics and music together in a way not seen since The Make-Up, and what they did, they did quite well. After the band's sudden breakup earlier this year, Richards announced that he had a new project that would be different than what people might expect. And boy, he wasn't joking!

Purple Blaze is a much different record than anything by his previous band. Instead of the loud, funky grooves of his previous band, Ris Paul Ric is pure mellow gold. Instrumentally speaking, the songs on Purple Blaze are sparsely arranged. Most songs are built on nothing more than acoustic guitar and some gentle, non-threatening percussion, though at times he includes some hushed synthesizer and beats. That he has a knack with making a lovesexy groove with such a minimal arrangement makes the record even more impressive.

Then there's Richards' voice; soft, senusal and downright sexy. He sounds not unlike a happier Elliott Smith, especially on more acoustic-based numbers like "Hanging From The Garden" and "I Wish You Love Me," but the songs on Purple Blaze aren't folk. In fact, it's not a stretch to suggest that Richards' new style is best described as lo-fi acoustic soul. Dig that sexy falsetto on "Run Up Wild On Me." Damn! Comparisons to Prince might seem a bit daft, but this song proves that there's something to such allegations. Other moments, like "Demo Was a Runaround" and "I Wish You Love Me," are soft, sensual numbers that would probably fit wonderfully on a mix CD for that hopefully-special someone.

The only time the record falters is when he inserts brief instrumental drones into the record. While it's easy to understand why he did so--to break the monotony--the record would have been better off without them. Not that they're "bad," but they're not essential to the record's pace. That one fault is more of an aesthetic criticism, and even those songs are somewhat tolerable. All in all, Purple Blaze is a great debut record.

--Joseph Kyle

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