What will it take to help you find yourself? For some, it’s religion; for others, a job. Still, most won’t ever get a chance to know the delight of belonging to something that seems to speak to their very essence.
A not-so-small number of lucky souls managed to find most of what they were searching for while dressed in colourful clothing and listening to shamanic lead guitar solos that seemed to go on forever. Cynics may scoff at this, but to find meaning in such a peaceful way is undoubtedly special.
The ripples of the music and the commitment that the gigantic jam rock bands like The Grateful Dead created are still being felt today. And like all important art forms, it is helping other creative types develop their very own language.
The Ardvark Felon’s album “Yes, There is Life… Baby!” is written with the spirit of the tye-dye groups in mind and with partying as a clear mission. The record is a celebration of the mysteries of life and the secrets of long-form rock jams.
But don’t think that all those cosmic trips equate to sloppiness. Album opener, “One Time”, shows the true measure of the group. If this is a jam, it’s a tight one based on jazzy arrangements and making use of strong musical chops.
Next up, “Got This Feeling” reveals the band’s ambition for simultaneous pop acceptance. The song is driven by soulful singing, a groovy rhythm section and a pristine lead guitar tone.
In fact, The Ardvark Felon’s greatest strength might just be the band’s sense of restraint. Anyone who has followed the jam bands’ extensive catalogues will know that this is not always a given with groups, particularly their lead guitarists, enjoying little more than to show off their skills.
However, on songs like the mellow “Subject to Change,” the cosmic journey of “Racing Through Time”, or the folk-inspired “Cuddles in Nature,” the all-important lead guitar is used in the same way as the vocals – to create sparse, singable melodies.
It doesn’t take long to pick up on the fact that The Ardvark Felon crew are not just enthusiastic hippies. They’re gifted, confident musicians drifted by the non-combative spirit of the hippies.
The title track, “Life, I Don’t Mind”, acts as the album’s manifesto, a song about facing up to the stressful responsibilities of modern life by allowing oneself to drift away peacefully.
Album closer, “Small Star”, allows the band to stretch their collective musical muscle once more, smoothly extending upon ideas that sound like they belong to a child’s lullaby. It’s a peaceful way for the Ardvark Felon to end this chapter and helps show that dreams of quiet space travel and strong musicianship are still an inspiration to many young artists.
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