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Joe Macre — The Dream Is Free
(Bandcamp Cuppa Joe Records no#, 2022, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-04-01

The Dream Is Free Cover art

The Dream Is Free is a fine followup to Joe Macre’s Bullet Train (2021). To briefly recap, Macre’s career in music began with the band Crack the Sky in 1975, and while he’s been in and out of that band, he’s remained connected with guitarist Rick Witkowski, who contributes to four of the ten tracks here, including one where he also plays drums. The other musicians are Chris Elliott (lead guitar) and Al Macre (keyboards); Joe Macre himself covers everything else, including bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, and the majority of the vocals. Putting on my Old-Man-Yells-at-Cloud hat, I’d describe the music as “well written and played rock music of the kind that is highly unfashionable these days.” Elements of 70s and 80s rock are integrated with more modern touches. I’m generally not fond of the sound of Auto-Tune, but it’s used as an effect on “Life in the Theater” in a way that kinda works; other songs that feature the effect are a bit less appreciated. Guitars form the core of most arrangements, though keyboards gain prominence here and there. The performances are all top-notch, and the songs have quirks that lift them away from the “composed by committee” sound of so much music recently. I enjoy a lot of the lyrics: “The dream’s free, but the pain’s sold separately” (from the title track). Upon first listen, I found the production to be on the trebly side, with a low end that lacked punch, but part of that is due to the fact that Macre favors a very bright picked Chris Squire-like tone on his bass, and repeated listens have led me to come to terms with it. The drums also have a trebly impact that sounds a bit unnatural, reminding me of the electronic kits of the 80s. But setting those nitpicks aside, the important thing here is the songwriting, with good melodies and intelligent lyrics. There are no progressive epics or tricky time signatures here, but the music is informed by a progressive spirit, and has much to recommend it.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Joe Macre

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