Sometimes a record can catch you off guard. A couple weeks ago when my friend/amazing musician Patrick Tape-Fleming sent me a copy of the new record from Christopher The Conquered, I was skeptical. Mainly because he introduced it as his favorite band. Normally if someone tells me this I just assume that they are friends with someone in the band. But because I hold him in such high regard, I took Patrick at his word and I listened to the music with an open mind. And as it turns out, not only was Patrick being one hundred percent sincere, if anything he undersold it. After hearing these songs a couple times, I have to say that Christopher The Conquered, along with his Black Gold Brass Band, should be a lot of people’s favorite band.
I didn’t start off loving the album. The first track, “Free To Try (But Not Always To Do)” begins like a showtune from a lost broadway sequel to West Side Story. The song kicks off with a nice horn intro before Chris hops in with “Welcome to America, home of brave and free.” You have to hear it to really understand what I mean, but it’s a bit odd. About a minute in the rest of the band explodes and every second after that is a complete joy.The highlight of the song is the trombone that comes in at the five minute mark and really accentuates the bluesy feel that is created through a lot of this record.
My favorite track is the third, “Let Us Not Confuse Our Thoughts With Our Beliefs.” I like the songs message and I really enjoy Chris Ford’s vocals. It’s layered with some nice horn work, but the words are the real star in this song:
Father sits up in his cage, spouting his beliefs
But all I hear is my hate and his fear
hell, I can’t even speak
It really freaks me out, how can people talk like this
striving for humility, but never reaching it
Ford and his band have a “throw it all against the wall and see what sticks” philosophy. They cover more genres than I can count, often in the same song, but it works. As the leader of the band, Ford reminds me of a couple very well-known and liked artists-Randy Newman and Ben Folds. Newman for the biting social commentary and Folds for the irreverence. He’s never afraid to speak his mind or turn something on it’s head. Writing from the heart is always the best way to go, and on this album Ford does that in spades.
The band is phenomenal as well. I don’t have a listing of everyone involved, but they all deserve their due credit. The only parts of the album I enjoyed a little less were the couple songs where the band were taken out of the equation. “10,000 People” is one that’s just a bit somber. It’s a well-written song, but it doesn’t carry the power of the other songs. Also, “The Greatest Record Ever In The History Of Pop Music” could have been punched up a bit. There’s so much going on lyrically in the song, that I think it needs a little more behind it. Again, it’s well-written. Just a bit too plain compared with the songs around it.
There isn’t really anything I could say to deter you from picking up this album. Out of eight songs there are only two that falter, and even those are pretty good (probably really good if you never heard the other songs on the record). The band does such a great job of blending pop, jazz, blues, funk, ragtime, and damn near every other type of music (except dubstep, sorry) that there really is something for everyone here.