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Ez Jon Erikson
Ramshackle World

A review by Richard Radcliffe

After 2 impressive albums ('Eztravaganza' and 'Summers of My Life'), EZ is back with this new collection of songs, all written or co-written and performed by EZ himself. The collection has a definite theme running through it. The ramshackle world, the title song, is our world – with all its pitfalls and glories. EZ cleverly observes the state of the ordinary person, the lyrics drift through the myriad of emotions that we all face living in such a world, this world of contrasts. The cover represents this very well, this being the best cover of all EZ releases at this stage. The luxury apartments mixing with the derelict buildings. The collection of songs mix the old with the new. There’s updated versions of 5 songs from 'Eztravaganza', which are generally a great improvement, both in production and performance. There’s also 7 brand new songs which really do show the talent of EZ. The CD moves from one musical style to the next, effortlessly. There’s some real foot tappers here, mixed with ballads, and some musical experimentation that was unexpected too. It is by far the best produced of all EZ CDs, very professional in every department. I personally find the enjoyment to so many of EZ's songs is improved when the words are followed in the insert whilst listening to the CD, so it's a shame that the lyrics to this album are not provided. However, this is becoming the norm nowadays with the existence of websites.

Now a look at the songs one by one:

In the City – Bookending the CD are 2 audio representations of City Life. The first takes us into the Ramshackle World of the title, with its busy commuters and Newspaper salesmen. A busker entertains the crowd, intent on acquiring enough for a meal, but is clearly having a great time in the process! It sets the scene – it takes us to where we need to be to enjoy the songs.

Fear of the World – The song is about the fear and paranoia inherent in many people about life, about living in our world. Why do we fear so much? Why do we react badly to certain situations? Why do we put up with so much antagonism and unfairness from others? The EZ vocals, slightly distorted by use of guitar compression reflecting the confusion, belt out the questions. The repeated refrain “Fear of the World” ends the song enforcing the point. The song has a Rock busy style, with Electrical Guitars prominent, including impressive solo from Paul Adshead. It starts the CD off vibrantly, and we are sitting up paying attention already. 8/10

Ramshackle World – The titular song is what the CD is all about. A rock song again, describing this crazy world we live in, and the injustice that exists within it. The motivations of many people are looked at. It’s a wonderful summation of the sheer diversity of men and women, and the struggle of the poor, whilst the rich get richer, how we all have different lives, and all aspire to different goals. The rock style continues, this time with a more deliberate beat. Again the accompaniment perfectly captures the mood of the song. It’s not the best song on the CD, but it certainly represents what EZ is trying to say better than any other song on it. 8/10

Escape (In the Night) – The EZ classic that seems to have had more versions than 'Yesterday' by Paul McCartney! Well, okay, this is only the second version, but there were two mixes on the 'Eztravaganza' CD and I'm lucky to have heard several others. EZ is clearly trying to find the definitive way to present this great song. Piano accompaniment is improved, soaring strings perfectly compliment electrical guitar riff. EZ’s voice has matured too, he’s more comfortable with the extreme notes. A lovely lilting saxophone accompaniment joins the fray and becomes a feature. This is the best version of this song. Because it is one of EZ’s best songs, it deserves the very best treatment. It finally has it. 10/10

For You and You Alone – One of EZ’s very early songs, again one that he has been striving to find the definitive presentation for. Although there has only been one released version before, this is the fifth I have heard. This version has a more subtle accompaniment than the song has had in the past. Nonetheless there is plenty going on in the background, and it’s very catchy too. A change of lyrics help the song move more smoothly. Ultimately this is just a wonderful love song, full of the joys of falling in love, and being in love. It encapsulates those joys very well. This is the best version, by quite a way, of this excellent song. 9/10

Mirage – After 2 new songs, and 2 old (but better than ever) songs, it’s time to chill out a little, ballad like. EZ writes such meaty lyrics, a subtler song like this even has them in abundance. This is a song about longing, about wanting a love to return, with desert imagery. A steady verse leads into a wonderfully melodic chorus, all the time accompanied by an understated, but marvellously appropriate array of instruments. As the song moves along so EZ doubles up, harmonizing himself to great effect. This song is a great example of how this CD takes the best of EZ songwriting and singing, and enhances it all with brilliant production values. A real standout and already one of my favourites from the whole EZ Collection. 10/10

Best Thing – Another oldie resurfaces, but what an improvement! The original I always liked, but wasn’t struck on the chorus too much, the production too could have been better, hence one of the reasons EZ has recorded it again. The lyrics and melody are the same, but it’s the arrangement, production and presentation that has improved. Trumpets replace the squeeze box effect, and along with the percussion, give a spaghetti western movie feel to the song. EZ’s vocals are clearer in the lower key. The pacing of the song has improved dramatically too. There’s no changing of style that so let down the first version. A song about love, the last of a brilliant trilogy in the middle of the CD, it shows how love is the most wonderful emotion. It’s part of the Ramshackle World, but by far the most positive. 9/10

Extravaganza – I have to confess that 'Extravaganza', the title track of EZ’s first Collection, is my favourite track he has ever done. I love the riff that launches it all. I love the energy that drives the song, and the simple melody and lyrics. It’s a classic pop song, and I was a little sceptical, upon hearing that he was redoing it, that he could improve on the original. It’s still a great song though, but when you love an original so much, it's sometimes difficult to accept a new version. All the songs EZ has redone on this CD are improvements on the original, except this. The original had an almost live feel to it. I liked the raw energy, but this is very much a studio recording with a little too much going on in the background. The song will always be a 10/10 – but this version, whilst still being nicely produced, only gets a 7/10

Cadaverous Lullaby – What a wonderfully contrasting title that is! A corpse-like, deathly pale soothing song, according to the dictionary! Again the contrasts of the world, its highs and lows exaggerated – the theme of the CD in fact. I’ll also wager this is EZ’s most surprising song for many. With the Indian style instrumentation, mixed with a strange beat, it certainly is unusual. I recall the Beatles doing a similar thing, and it’s bold of EZ to try something so vastly different from his norm. It’s the sort of song that improves the more you listen to it. It’s not that long, but like all of the EZ songs has some great lyrics to enjoy. Not totally suitable for EZ vocals, but an interesting side-step. 7/10

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles – To counter the surprise of 'Cadaverous Lullaby', we are brought down to earth with a song EZ and his brother Sam perform superbly well. Back with full force comes the rock beat and electrical guitars. Back comes the fun, EZ and Sam clearly having a great time with the song, and its ridiculous lyric interludes. It tells a good moral though, as all the songs on this CD do. Sometimes you just have to accept things the way they are, but you can still have a great time with that. The 2 voices of the brothers mix brilliantly well, particularly with the concluding "that's the way" arrangement. This one is all about a catchy beat and a lot of fun – it’s brilliant. 10/10

His Bark is Worse Than His Bite – The laughs continue with the EZ classic homage to his old newspaper round. Is it better than the original? Yes, lots better. This has the feel of beside the pool on holiday, drinking some cold drink whilst the sun beats down upon you. A paperback lies on the floor ready to be enjoyed. It’s a nice easy-going track, jolly in its jazz combo approach. EZ has a bit of fun all through, but in particular at the end, and we’re smiling along with him. The great EZ fun song produced brilliantly. 9/10

Live to Die – It’s time to get back to the questions of the earlier tracks. With a series of words ending in “ation” EZ takes us through the journey of life, questioning life itself, without answer. The tag line for the song is a bit depressing, showing the inevitability of life leading to death. But there’s also the pursuit of immortality in there, showing a life beyond. Acoustic guitars and harmonica accompany the pleasing tune throughout. Springsteen inspired, it’s a pleasant song with a deep message. 8/10

Changing World – The themes of the CD are summed up in its final track. This is a similar type of song in a way to 'Masters of Our Destiny' on the 'Summers Of My Life' CD, but more subtle. You expect it to explode at any moment, but it doesn’t. Convention is not the purpose of this CD, EZ continues to surprise with his innovations. The world changes all the time and we are caught up in it. We must wear our scars from experiences positively. The length of this song is appropriate too, by far the longest track on the CD. What starts out as a seemingly simple tune, becomes much more by the end. The harmonizing benefits this recording a great deal. Again, the production is excellent, just the right balance. The end is a bit sudden though. This is his best song on the CD for lyrics, great song overall. 8/10

Uptown – The end mirrors the beginning as we return to the busker in the city, with all life going on around him. The CD ends as it started, and the message is clear. We must make the best of the world we live in.

As EZ gets older, his confidence as a singer songwriter grows, and his experiences have given him different perspectives. They are often conflicting ones, and it’s all in this CD. A great thinker, he gives his songs meaty lyrics that are wonderful poems in their own right. The contrasts inherent in the world is the theme. The contrasting styles between the songs is also evidence of this diversity. The production is better than ever, with every song impressive in its own way.

Ramshackle World sees EZ improve once again from his previous CDs. This is the best one yet. There is absolutely no weak link anywhere. Overall, brilliant.

 

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