May 3, 2007

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Animal Liberation Orchestra, Roses and Clover
Brushfire Records, 2007

Forever wrestling with an uncomfortable dependence on Jack Johnson for survival, ALO should by all rights be Grateful Dead: The Next Generation by now but arenít. Their unworried, technically adept mall-jam fluff still doesnít adopt the Harry Nilsson eccentricities of their platinum-selling college buddy (Johnson gave them a spot on last yearís tour, as did Dave Matthews), preferring to stick with unabashed innocence. Zach Gillís voice is Burl Ives sans nasality but with all the heart, showing traces of Randy Newman in spots, most notably on the title track. Roses and Clover is painfully commercial in comparison to 2006ís Fly Between Falls, in which guitarist Dan Lebowitz chummed a perpetual current of Jerry-meandering into the bandís feel-good jazz, bluegrass, and prog-rock spazz-outs; in the tight confines of this record his rankís been reduced to metronome-following side-guy, keeping time to a bunch of semi-hooky radio bait thatís been a staple of hackdom since rock n roll discovered the world outside 12-bar blues. C+ ó Eric W. Saeger