Mistakes Of Memory

Gilbert Neal

Wampus Multimedia, 2020


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Considering the release of the Hamilton film was abruptly moved up after the pandemic began, it seems clear that Gilbert Neal and Wampus Multimedia weren’t making a conscious effort to shadow it—but it would have made perfect sense, as Mistakes Of Memory sounds like nothing so much as a genre-straddling musical theatre soundtrack.  

Neal has said of his albums, “I treat them all like musicals.” And like its memorable 2016 predecessor The Mayor Of Estes Park, Neal’s sixth LP Mistakes Of Memory is a frothy jambalaya of influences from prog to funk to pop, a zesty, Zappaesque rock opera with genuine Broadway flair. It’s brought to life by singer/ multi-instrumentalist Neal in collaboration with co-producer / drummer Darrell Nutt, with additional contributions from Jacob Wynne (horns) and Susie Hulcher (vocals).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Mind-expanding opener ”Listen!”—an on-the-nose overture explicitly designed to grab your attention—veers wildly between choral interplay and a hazy, proggy melody decorated with r&b horns. Next, the propulsive, insistently catchy “Claudius” offers a historically-themed parable with strong enough overtones of the current political moment that I kept visualizing Nero with a heavy orange spray tan. Well, at least until the trumpet solo over the blistering funk breakdown…! Dude.

The funk comes on even stronger with “Here Comes The Yes,” a thumping anthem to possibility whose spoke-sung verses accelerate to near-rapping over the course of the track, muscling up each time for the choruses. Neal then shifts gears smoothly as “Mistakes And I” locates the sonic nexus between Steely Dan and Stephen Sondheim with clean melodic lines and theatrical panache, and the spare first half of “Ceremony” gives way to a billowing first-act-climax crescendo.

“The Mayor Of Estes Park,” whose name suggests it may have been a holdover from the previous album’s writing sessions, opens the second half with an evocative mid-tempo showcase for Neal’s elastic voice, from his natural earthy baritone to falsetto to choral background vocals. The especially snappy “Take That As A Maybe” turns up the funk again for a tale of romantic crash-and-burn, while “My Julie” offers a light-hearted ode to romance with a cool girl who seems to warp reality around her as she moves through the world, at least until she turns on our philandering narrator. Closer “Where Are You?” finds Neal alone at the piano serenading “a one-way love affair,” a melancholy finale that feels like the closing scene of Pink Floyd’s The Wall as reimagined by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

While no Founding Fathers appear in it, Mistakes Of Memory bears some degree of kinship with the musical of the moment in its manic mixing and matching of styles. It takes a special kind of genius to combine broad stylistic range with a distinct artistic vision, and then execute it with total commitment. I don’t know if Neal is in fact named after the Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan, but it sure seems like he should be.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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