Rock and Reprise.net
He looks and dresses like John Hamm (?Mad Men?), writes like Paul McCartney on his best days (think Long and Winding Road) and sings like, well, Royal Wood. He lives on the edge of rock in that nebulous area called--- just what do they call adult contemporary these days? He has the soul of a Gershwin and a Sinatra without the glitz and glamour, writes for voice and orchestra (and sometimes voice and piano) with the ease of Rodgers and Hammerstein writing for the musical stage and released this EP to bridge a gap between full-length album projects. He is a busy and talented man, is Royal Wood, which begs the question, if he is all those things (and my ears tell me he is), why haven't we heard more about him? All I can say is be patient. We will.
Twenty years ago, Royal Wood could have been a TV Darling, an artist of the Roger Whittaker/Josh Brogan variety (though not musically) who (in spite of a reality dipped in sweat and hard work) seemingly appeared out of nowhere to wow the masses. But that was yesterday, folks, and in today's world even the TV tabloids, with sensational scandals and bared body parts of the rich and famous, fight for market share. Just what can a Royal Wood do to break through?
Just what he has been doing, actually. There are many out there who believe that given enough time, talent rises to the top. I know, oil and water and all that, but if it is true, Royal Wood has the talent. The Lost and Found EP, with its sweeping orchestral arrangements, is only one link in what is sure to become a long string of impressive projects. It began a handful of years ago with a simple session at Toronto's Blank Spaces Studio out of which came The Milkweed EP. First time in and Wood already had it down. Five songs impressive in their maturity and milkweed. In 2004, Wood returned to Blank Spaces to record Tall Tales and what was basically a hobby began to take a turn. When it came time for A Good Enough Day (2005), Wood had truly arrived. With a sense of the music way beyond the sum of its parts, performance and song found a true voice. From that point on, Wood stepped beyond the definitions of composer, arranger, musician and vocalist and became whole.
Maybe that is what he should have called this EP: The Whole Royal Wood. From the beginning, after short orchestra lead-in and with soft piano underbelly, Wood's seemingly frail voice takes us into the clouds (Don't Fall Apart) only to return us to the world of Oz with the lighter Wish to Paint, the background a perfect orchestral portrait of a carousel. Thinking About is reminiscent of McCartney's White Album period, light and reflective and all Royal Wood. Wood waxes anthemic on It Weighs On Me, the beat a bit harder but background flawlessly subdued, matching mood to music. A bit more dramatic, Poor Little World with its lilting piano, just short of classical in style, haunts the musical stage, but only in small and quiet breaths until the crescendo and overlapping multi-tracked vocals supported by what sounds like full orchestra ends it all. All Of My Life ends the EP, an enchanting and melodic ballad which tears at the heartstrings. The cycle is complete.
Actually, the cycle is hardly complete. Royal Wood undoubtedly has a lot more in him and I fully expect to watch him develop and grow. Not that he needs growth. He is there. But I can't help but wonder where he'll go next. With his talent, he could go anywhere. How about The Royal Wood Suite? Or Traditional Folk Journeys Through the Royal Wood? He could do it. And I'll be listening. So will a boatload of fans, future and otherwise, purely because he will be well worth listening to. And is.
Oh, that comparison to John Hamm (You know, Mad Men)? The pictures and surrounding aura of the EP could be a one-off photo shoot for all I know, but the similarities are uncanny. Of course, Hamm I'm sure cannot write and sing like Wood, and I'm pretty sure Wood doesn't smoke with the proficiency of Hamm (or, should I say, Don Draper, his TV counterpart). You decide. Check it out.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.