Good Karma:

A review of William Brooks' new album, Karma Dogs

by Tabitha Rasa

We're in this phase of music where everybody's remaking seventies icons: Dave Matthews Band redoes Doobie Brothers, Melissa Etheridge is just a modern Steve Perry, and the Chili Peppers take us back to Sly and the Family Stone. It's what we've got going musically right now. I'm not here to debate whether the trend is good or bad. It just is.

In that light William Brooks is a welcome new presence. If Brooks reminds me of anybody, it's my personal fave '70s icon, Elton John. From the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road days. Elton and Bernie Taupin paved the (horrible) path of my teenage years with musical gems ranging from the goth rock "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" to the countrified "Roy Rogers," via the sexually titillating "Alice." What I loved about John/Taupin efforts was the stylistic range, on top of the orchestrally jam-packed arrangements.

Plus you could generally count on Elton John to make an album. There was a sense you got listening to his records that the tunes were put together in that specific order, on purpose.

Brooks has all this, and less: He's a little more spare in style, a little more pointed in content. Some of his lyrics make you squirm, like these from "I Do Not Know": "If I stood in front of you with your sex in my hands, would you have me then?" But there's not anything in there I never thought in my own private head, which is probably why the lyrics often seem to cut so close to the bone.

Brooks also passes my personal musical test: Do I enjoy singing the songs myself? Resoundingly, yes. They're definitely pop songs, not terribly hard to learn and chime in on, and I had fun listening to and singing along with this album.

So what do we have here? Carefully composed and crafted jewels, arranged in a meaningful sequence to form a true album, intense subject matter that often picks at the back of the listener's brain, and good old down home pop music you can take with you as you go throughout your day. Worth acquiring at any price, in my book.

Brooks published this CD himself, and I strongly urge you to write for a copy. At $16 (which includes postage and handling), it's a beautiful, thoughtful, worthy addition to any music lover's library. The address is:

William Brooks
P.O. Box 2597
Times Square Station
New York, NY 10108
voice mail: 212-539-3736

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