Mikey Wax’s eponymous sixth CD (by my estimate, from Wikipedia and mikeywax.com ) is the work of a seasoned writer/vocalist/keyboardist, issuing a dozen perfectly crafted songs – both musically and lyrically – embellished by top notch production from Scott Cash and Ed Cash. With all the music invading my P.O. box this particular disc has remained in the players at home and in the car for a good week now, which is an indicator of its potential staying power. The effervescent production and performance on the opener, “You Lift Me Up” – pave the way for an in the pocket collection of memorable pop songs, all unique with a separate personality to each. Cher could easily duet with Mikey on “You Lift Me Up,” a throwback to her 1998 “Believe” phase that saturated the dance clubs, superb guitars closing it out at around the 3:20 mark. Things shift immediately sound-wise, from the dance hall of the opener to 70s-friendly pop radio on “Bottle Of Jack.” This is quite an amazing moment on the disc and worthy of attention. Everything about it gets five stars, from his superb voice on the chorus to the distinctive words. It is most clever lyrically as well as in its musical design. Very, very nice. In a perfect world it’s a big hit. “Only One,” written by Mikey and Jonny Wax, is powerfully direct in its delivery. Wax’s definite vocal has punctuation marks from the producers as found in The Supremes’ “Reflections” and “Love Child” (not comparing the songs, just noting the solid production.) It reminds this reviewer of the days of Paul Young – the voice of the early Paul Young recording in the new millennium, that is. Scott and Ed Cash’s production is as dynamic as anything on Top 40 in the days of yore and its crisp voicing of each instrument complementing, not overpowering the singer, is a plus. These compositions, all drenched in heavy romantic themes, offer something different musically cut after cut. The aim is definitely the market James Blunt conquered and with the strong hooks from “Hang On” to “Alive in New York City” and throughout, this new disc from Mikey has a very good chance of reaching that wider audience. “Baby Don’t You Let Me Down” engages a bit of country pop, back when Olivia Newton John, Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers ruled the airwaves while “Let You Run” comes in with a driving groove and an accompaniment that resembles a modern-day “wall of sound,” a powerful ensemble that gets even bigger as it rolls on into “Alive in New York City.” His voice is terrific here – “Alive in NYC” written solely by Wax, the lingering guitar under the chorus adding textures to this key element of the dozen songs that comprise the CD, material that is chock full of romantic promise that every lover wants to hear.
The piano on “The Calm” is taken straight out of Elton John’s “Grey Seal” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a trick Elton (lifting influences from here and there) employed most frequently. Wax even appears to sing “no, I ain’t no Elton John” in the final track, “Last Great Song,” unless it’s a Lady Mondegreen – misheard lyric, though malapropisms don’t appear to be part of the formula at play here. The tune is blanketed by a warm, lush production surrounding the singer’s attractive vocal with the huge chorus reaching a crescendo.
“Take Me Home” is another powerful melody that will stay in your head after you leave the car or wherever else you play CDs. It evokes the ardent emotional attachment found in Paul Davis’ classic hit, “Cool Night” where he beckons “come on over….” Following the concept up with “Walking on Air” is a smart segue, bringing into the new millennium the serious style that Davis, Stephen Bishop and Gino Vanelli added to Top 40. “Walking on Air” may be my favorite track here, tight and exciting production gives Wax the opportunity to deliver the spot-on vocal which shimmers with exuberance. An irresistible hook and excellent break that tugs you right back into the chorus.
“With the rooftop down/and the stars shining bright” gives the punch to what started out as Mikey Wax the balladeer on the opening to “Fall Back in Love.” It’s another song that seems to consciously be different structurally and melodically from all the other selections, though the theme remains undeniably romantic. For those of us who couldn’t stand the insufferable Rick Astley and/or Michael McDonald’s ‘swallow your tongue while singing” routine, this artist’s delivery entertains and adds to the music, never getting in the way. If only Mikey Wax was around back then to sing on what became annoying radio; annoying due to the lack of a sincere voice, where the sensitivity of a Richard Marx was needed. When Mikey wants to “take you on a date and start all over” you really believe him.
Of the twelve tracks only one breaks the four minute mark, the finale “Last Great Song.” Co-written by Scott; Ed Cash and Mikey Wax, the piano ballad is driving me crazy in trying to place the 70s male vocalist who set a similar mood. There’s a lot to absorb, and appreciate, on Mikey Wax the record, and it is hardly cliché to say there’s not a bad track here, because everything works together as a cohesive unit. It’s a bouquet of, as stated at the outset of this review, perfectly crafted pop music delivered with honesty and delivered in an entertaining and very appealing way.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.