Mister Link®

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Artist: Mister Link
Album:  Do It in the Name of Love

This is an intriguing disc that has moments of sheer brilliance. Even the songs that fall short of that level have plenty of charm. At times there’s a bit of an awkward air to the vocals, though. That said, it never gets to the point of really interfering with the enjoyment of the song.

“Do It in the Name of Love” opens with a killer retro rock sound. This has a swing sort of feeling to it, but with more of a rockabilly texture. It’s almost as if Atomic Fireballs were to create music with The Stray Cats. It’s a real screamer and has a tasty melodic guitar solo. “Photoshop Girlfriend” is a fun rocker that feels a bit more modern. It’s got a little bit of an off-kilter edge to it and still accessible.

“Color Blind” takes it into territory that’s certainly metallic. Whether it’s real metal or not might be a question of degrees. It’s certainly crunchy and it’s frantic. It’s also a great tune on a disc that has quite a few great tunes. It presents yet another side to Link’s musical personality. The variety is continued with “Bionic Man.” It starts with an acoustic guitar based sound that’s a bit weird and quite proggy. There’s a powered up section very much like a metallic progressive rock progression. This is the strangest song to this point, but it’s also tasty.

With “I'm Crazy” an alternative rock sound is blended with something closer to heavy metal. While it feels just a little awkward, it’s also very strong. There’s a real pop oriented hook in the tune, too. “Act 1” really fits into a progressive rock heading. It’s more melodic, but still a little twisted in some ways. There are some great changes and textures throughout the track and it certainly brings more variety to the table. “I'll Take You Away” also fits as progressive rock, but the chorus hook is more along the lines of pop music. It’s one of the most accessible pieces on the disc.

Next in line is a cover of “Sixteen Tons.” It gets turned into sort of a funk rock jam. It’s quite cool. There’s a jam later in the piece that has a lot of progressive rock built into it. “Jesus Wasn’t Hungry” has a lot of energy and it’s a melodic tune that’s fairly modern. It is another that certainly qualifies as progressive rock. There are a number of changes and it gets a bit nicely twisted at times. There are some bits that call to mind Hawkwind a bit.

An energetic folk meets world music and jazz sound is the basic premise behind “Deserted Sand.” While it’s not one of the strongest pieces on show, it’s another bit of variety. The melodic guitar soloing on the piece adds a lot. There are certainly some hints of Jamaican music late in the piece. “My Love Song” comes in like an acoustic guitar based rockabilly number. It works from there into something that’s playful and has plenty of country edge to it. The instrumental section really feels a lot like melodic southern rock.

“Tin Soldier” has a classic folk rock element to it, both in terms of the lyrics and the music. It’s a highlight of the set and one of the more accessible pieces here. Some of the melodic layers in the arrangement are particularly tasty. “Native Son” is a harder rocking tune with more of a singer songwriter or roots rock sound to it. It’s another that stands out as a highlight. “That's Life” is an energetic hard rocker with some killer piano work. The closing tune on the disc is “Swingin' Christmas,” and it’s precisely what one would expect from that title. It’s a great swing cut with holiday based lyrics. Other than some lyrical reference to things like hip hop, it wouldn’t be a big stretch to imagine that this dates to the 1940s. It has some tasty horn playing in the mix.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this set is also one of its strengths, and that’s the amount of variety here. While it helps to keep this interesting, it also makes it a little hard to nail down the disc and really get into a groove. Of course, these days many listeners only take music one single at a time. For that purpose it won’t be an issue. Listening from start to finish, though, can be just a little confusing.

Review by G. W. Hill
Rating:  3.5 Stars (out of 5)

Something Else!

Though his baritone has been consistently compared to that of Jim Morrison, Mister Link’s music connects with more modern sounds on Do It in the Name of Love, from the Cars and R.E.M. to the Smiths and the White Stripes. And, more particularly, Link moves well beyond the stereotypically assured sexuality of the Doors’ doomed lead singer.
 
Consider Link’s approach to songs like “Bionic Man” and “I’ll Take You Away,” which simply ask too many questions about how our passions might go wrong – and, as elsewhere, often so with a surprisingly raw, vocal delivery.
 
With “Bionic Man,” Link builds this driving, post-modern propulsion atop an almost mathematical riff (recalling something out of Steve Howe’s heyday with Yes), before ultimately surging into a yowl that Morrisey would love by the time the chorus arrives. I hear a similar sense of Smiths-influenced scarred vulnerability in “I’ll Take You Away.”
 
Then there’s “Act 1,” a lilting acoustic-driven interlude that finds Link ruminating on what happens when we lose ourselves too deeply in love. “Photoshop Girlfriend” deals with the flipside of that kind of passion, as Link’s protagonist falls in love with a two-dimensional cut-out figure. “She plays the part, she won’t break my heart,” Link reminds. Similarly, “I’m Crazy” pulls no punches, from its torrent of guitars to its straight-forward lyric: You almost have to be a little off, Link seems to be saying, to fall completely for someone.
 
He’s too honest, too open hearted, too self-effacing to nail down as a Morrison clone. If all of that doesn’t convince you, cue up “My Love Song.” Twangy and anthematic, this track has a kind of hang-dog sense of self-deprecation that recalls Ringo Starr’s best moments.
 
Over the course of the project, as Link moves beyond issues of the heart, he also goes well outside of any genre pigeon-hole, too.
 
A galloping, punky groove underscores Link’s essential anger at the distance racism creates in “Color Blind.” “Native Son,” with its gripping, early-Cars power-pop vibe, covers similar topical ground – but this time from the point of view of a people robbed of their homeland. “Jesus Wasn’t Hungry,” with its jangly R.E.M.-ish cadence, takes on the larger issues of an overcrowded, homeless and starved world.
 
Link goes on, in another intriguing move, to dabble in some jazz-inflected asides: The lone cover song, Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons,” transforms the track’s original rambling country-rock feel – as performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford, who took the song to the top of the charts in 1955 – into a moment of loose, riffy balladry. “Swingin’ Christmas” goes even further, adding synthesized horns and strings to a fleet little Yuletide-themed hoot that references legendary figures likes Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald in an effort to connect with another era of finger-snapping hipsters.
 
In the end, though, those songs feel like side roads more than heart-of-the-matter elements for Link: Do It in the Name of Love finds its true voice, I think, in moments like the title song. Shambling and loose, it romps along like a late-1970s DIY project – with Link talking rather than singing for much of the track alongside a gnarled guitar and thrillingly sloppy drums. Similarly, the disjointed calypso of “Deserted Sand” is bolstered by a boozy group of background singers, and this frisky, Jack White-inspired guitar interlude.
 
Elsewhere, “Tin Soldier” has a smart, acoustic-based spaciousness that recalls Lloyd Cole. But then Link has the ability to plug in and tear into a track like “That’s Life.” Not to be confused with the Sinatra hit, it’s a stomping indictment of a cheating partner – delivered with a smart attitude behind a storm of guitars.
 
Review by Nick DeRiso
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5