Review: David Reece – Blacklist Utopia
El Puerto Records (October 29th 2021)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
David Reece is an artist I have been following since the initial Bangalore Choir release from 1992. Throughout the decades his albums range from stellar (Bangalore Choir’s On Target, Accept, Bonfire) to unremarkable (The other Bangalore Choir releases, various solo releases). I have not expected much lately from Mr. Reece and was hesitant to review his latest album, ‘Blacklist Utopia‘. I am happy to report my hesitancy was unjustified. This is one of Reece’s strongest releases, containing some of the best songs of his career.
David has re-teamed with guitarist and songwriting partner Andy Susemihl for this release. His involvement was a surprise to me as I did not care for the previous releases that contained his work, but the material he and David constructed here is far and away their best stuff. I definitely need to revisit some of those older albums again just to be sure, but both the lyrics and the musicianship here is top notch.
My favorite songs from the album are first single ’I Can’t Breathe’ and ‘Save Me’. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ is a critique on several social commentary topics we have been facing as of late. I am usually averse to material like this, but when the lyrics are written well, dropping hints of context with an air of ambiguity, and all interwoven into a well crafted song, then there’s just no denying the cleverness of it all. ‘Save Me’ shows the band in peak performance and firing on all cylinders. I listened to this track more than any other and you can hear all of the individual contributions that make this song so special. There’s a slight change-up that I love after the second chorus where the guitar solo would go. Instead of the solo, a rhythm change and third verse takes place that fills out the song in an unexpected way. Little things like that take a song in an unforeseen direction that freshens up an occasionally stale song paradigm.
Let’s talk about Mr. Reece’s voice. Over thirty years of performing experience and he still sounds as great as ever. A great example of his capability can be found in the last track, ‘Book of Lies’. The verses border on thrash metal, with Reece spitting out the lyrics effortlessly and then immediately changing to harmonious overtones when the song shifts gears in the chorus. The gruff vocals stylings on tracks like ‘Down To The Core’ are interspersed with his melodious pitches on songs like the ballad ‘American Dream’ and it is all performed with ease.
Nearly all of the songs are worthy of repeat listens, with the exception of ‘Most Of The Time’. That song has the potential to be a great song but is saddled with a slowed- down awkwardly constructed chorus. A shame, as the remainder of the song is on par with the rest of the album.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the album cover. In a world where Photoshop has been around for over three decades, this album’s cover is inexcusable. It does not represent the quality of the music contained in this release. I promise you this is an album I have wanted to hear from David for years and I am so glad I chose to give him another chance. Now it’s time to go back and check out some of his older releases I skipped over. Anyone who has enjoyed any of David’s past work is sure to find something to love about this.