With nine albums listed on the All Music Guide from 1997’s Intentions as Big as the Sky up to Match Against a New Moon (along with the 2008 Gillen & (Matt) Turk effort, Backs to the Wall), this 2012 release -listed as the eighth full length from Fred Gillen Jr – Silence of the Night makes for an enormous body of work to absorb from the journeyman artist.
The trouble with a waterfall of so much melody, instrumentation and production is that the general public may have a hard time focusing on one song to propel the singer into the commercial realm so many seek. Opening with the subtly sacrilegious “Morphine Angel” we find she’s no cousin to Marianne Faithful and the Rolling Stones’ “Sister Morphine”, a dirge that fits better as an opening act to the Velvet Underground than the “American Folk” advertised. Probably not a sequel to “Primitive Angel” from the previous and aforementioned Match Against a New Moon (Fred does have an affinity for angels), the song is an odd choice to open the disc with.
More preferable to these ears would be the title track, “Silence of the Night’, with its exquisite Beatle-esque phrasings and pretty backing vocals. “Vanity runs the world” and Al Pacino would have to agree while in character as Lucifer in The Devil’s Advocate (it’s his favorite sin!)…the song (“Vanity”) is terrific – and would also have been a choice pick to open “Silence of the Night”. So would “Find a Rodeo”, arguably the best track here, and a sublime country/rocker in the vein of Gram Parsons, the Byrds and Boston’s well-loved Country Bumpkins.
The cover of the John Lennon/Yoko Ono’s classic “Silence” (track 16), lasts only 30 seconds, though I don’t think John & Yoko are credited here. Find the original on “Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions”. “This Town Is Our Song” is another gently played ode to another time, more optimistic than Simon & Garfunkel’s reunion tune “My Little Town”. Gillen plays all the instruments save drums which feature Eric Puente and the fiddle of Sarah Banks. Carolann Solebello’s duet vocals are perfect. There is a lot to explore on Silence of the Night, Gillen and Puente finding their groove again on “Only Sky”, a superb hook that is up there with “Vanity” and “Find A Rodeo” as the album favorites, at least for me.
It’s an ambitious effort by an ambitious singer who, of course, can’t resist penning a tune entitled “Angel.” No, not the Jimi Hendrix classic from The Cry Of Love / First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Perhaps Fred can cover that on his next outing.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.