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Sugar Ray - In the Pursuit of Leisure Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 June 2003

Sugar Ray

In The Pursuit Of Leisure
format: CD
label: Atlantic Records
release year: 2003
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

ImageThe group Sugar Ray has about as much artistic worth as table sugar has food value, yet it’s almost impossible to dislike what this group does. During its current musical quest – which it has titled In The Pursuit Of Leisure” – Sugar Ray makes the creation of memorable easygoing pop music look easy.

The best example of this outfit’s natural talent can be found in “56 Hope Road,” which also features Shaggy. It may begin in a rub-a-dub-style, but from about the halfway point on, it alternates between big booming bass and organ reggae, and a vocally layered and tambourine percussioned pop track. It’s a nice aural experiment that sounds like Brian Wilson-meeting-Lee-Perry-in-Jamaica for a rum and coke. Such a beaker-full may be a stretch for some imaginations to fully appreciate, but this is nonetheless a strangely beautiful work. It’s an unlikely mixture of elements, for sure, yet it succeeds just the same.

The rest of this album is much more fundamental and familiar, yet still packed with winners. “Mr. Bartender (It’s So Easy)” is a dance groove, which rides over The Sweet’s “Love Is Like Oxygen” guitar riff. It presents a nice intersection of R&B and rock. Its lyric is about a fellow who lost his job, and is simply asking the DJ to take his blues away. This track also has a rap part in the middle, in addition to incorporating horn sounds. It has “summer single” written all over it, even it’s a little late for that now. Some of the album’s other minor delights include “Heaven” with its light tropical beat, full group vocals and the extra-heavenly singing of Esthero, and a cover of Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?,” which is fairly faithful to the original version, but with added minimal scratching and Mark McGrath’s suitably scratchy singing.

This album’s sound might be termed soft rock for modern times, since these guys would much rather strum an acoustic than plug into an amp. “In Through The Doggie Door” is an exception, however, with its big rock electric guitar base. It has the loud guitar sound of heavy metal, yet it also applies a gentler touch on the vocals. Its lyric is a new twist on the old “in the doghouse” circumstance. And speaking of new twists, “Can’t Start,” with its acoustic guitar, funky bass backing and a just a tad of scratching, turns the concept of “I can’t stop loving you” on its head. Instead, McGrath sings, “Girl, I can’t start lovin’ you/Even though you want me to.”

These SoCal Sugar Ray boys may approach music-making leisurely, but without a whole lot of readily apparent effort, they rarely fail to hit their mark here.

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