The 2013 release, “Are You Getting On” is the fifth studio release from Blue Cartoon; a tight, highly polished collection of talented musicians based out of Austin, Texas. Previous albums include: “Blue Cartoon” (1998), “Downtown Shangri-La” (1999), "The Wonder of it All" (2003) and “September Songs” (2006).
And as is the case with many bands with a fifteen year history, Blue Cartoon has gone through a variety of both personnel changes as well as a philosophical change in musical direction. The fledgling band which released the self-titled debut album in 1998 is unlike the 2013 version, which is now equal parts progressive, psychedelic, and power pop.
The current line-up on “Are You Getting On?” includes: David Loren (lead vocals, keyboards, ukulele), Jeff Tracy (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Terry Carolan (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Lee Elliott (bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals), Mike Reynolds (drums, percussion, typewriter), and Yochanan Winston (flute on "Pity Party").
My initial reaction upon listening to “Are You Getting On?” was … when was this recorded? It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the master tape was recently discovered in the vault of an old recording studio which burned down in the mid-70s'. But no … this isn't an archival echo captured on magnetic tape. But my ears were fooled into thinking so. What I was hearing was the artful production of an album lush with the warmth of a vintage analog recording from decades past – well before digital compression exorcised the soul from most modern recordings.
“Are You Getting On?” is a wet dream for the audiophile whose eardrums have been shredded and violated by the advent of the digital record industry and the misuse of louder-is-better digital compression.
And as for the musical compositions - although not what I'd categorize as bombastic progressive rock – the tunes are an infectious collection of catchy, hook laden melodies and toe tapping rockers, the likes of which once dominated the FM airwaves throughout the 70s' and mid 80s' by artists like The Eagles (the track “Cowboy In Timbuktu”), Toto, Steely Dan, America, Supertramp, Todd Rundgren, White Witch, Bloodrock, 10CC (the tracks “Dreaming Beautiful Songs” and “Everyday's A Saturday”), Magnum, and CSN&Y.
The track “Remission” brings to mind the glam rock bands T-Rex, Be Bop Deluxe and Roxy Music.
While strong elements of the 60s' Summer Of Love and psychedelic rock bands like The Byrds, Love, 13th Floor Elevators, and especially Strawberry Alarm Clock are seemingly reincarnated in Blue Cartoon on their track “Don't Hold Your Breath”. This is easily something you might expect to hear from Strawberry Alarm Clock on “Incense And Peppermints”, “Wake-Up … It's Tomorrow” or “The World In A Sea Shell”.
And on the track “Light Age” and “Dreams Of You” I can detect echoes of the Canadian progressive band Klatuu as well as Paul McCartney and Wings.
The specter of Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, and Starcastle rears it's head on the track “High Desert Suite” as the vocal styling alternates somewhere between Starcastle and CSN&Y.
“Are You Getting On” is a very impressive collection of accessible tunes, quality musicianship without extended ego boosting pyrotechnic solos, superb vocal harmonies, and flawless production.
What more can you ask for!
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on November 3rd, 2013