Morgan Page has been active since 1999. Whether working in radio, creating illicit bootleg remixes, or creating new productions, he's been a busy guy. It isn't his fault you hadn't heard of him until "The Longest Road," or "Call My Name." If you heard of him before that, you have your ear to the tracks and could hear what was coming. Thankfully, this is the time for a progressive house producer. Just ask deadmau5, who cannot do any wrong.
A Strange Rendition
While Morgan Page thankfully sounds like a reincarnation of Gabriel & Dresden, it should be noted that Believe accomplishes nothing new. The production is solid, which is something one comes to expect with an artist like Page, but he continues his use of Elisabeth Morris (a.k.a. Lissie, "The Longest Road") which was a pairing I felt created some pretty lackluster dance music. In reality, Lissie's vocals are beautiful. But they in and of themselves are not uplifting, nor are they a medium I can lose myself in coupled with this style of music. They are a reincarnation of Stevie Nicks, albeit without achieving that level of brilliance. And as I feel Nicks doesn't belong in dance music, I feel the same way about Lissie as well, especially considering the morose musical landscapes Page paints for her. It isn't the most thrilling of experiences. That isn't to say that the pairing is bad. They do sound great together, but nothing pops. The only production Page has done with Lissie that I feel to be truly brilliant is their cover of Pete Yorn's "Strange Condition," that translates so well to this pairings' style I almost believe it was an original recording. That their best work is a cover track speaks volumes about the rest of their collaborations. While they sound fine, there is an aspect missing that keeps me detached. I can't speak as to why he continued his use of her, except that perhaps "The Longest Road" was such an unexpected hit that he was trying to recreate that experience.
A Journey We've Taken Before
What I'd really like to see from Page is an abandonment of dance beats all together. Yes, he is a dance artist, and to move away from that style might be weird, but I'd love to hear what he can accomplish without that crutch. And sometimes, it can be a crutch. You can never really see how good something is until you experience it out of its element. Most of Believe could improve with this mentality. Drop the crutch and truly see what you can accomplish with the skills that you have. Page is a fantastic producer, as we've seen throughout his recent mainstream career. The non-traditional electronic recordings "Coming Home," "In The Dark," "Only Human," and "Return to Me" (a vocal-less track under 2 minutes) all go different routes than dance and sound acceptable on their own. As Page has stated, he likes the vocalist to create the story and feel of the song, which I agree with in this stale musical environment. But that means, also, that people with talent, like Page, need to step it up. Create that laid-back pop song, then remix it yourself and allow others to do the same. Lissie's fragile voice would sound loads better without that heavy beat slamming her around as much as it does. Subtlety is key sometimes. And this is truly what holds Believe back: there isn't a whole lot of musical intrigue. We've heard it before.
"Fight For You" might as well be "The Longest Road Pt. 2" for all the similarities between the tracks. Page's remixes, as well as his last album, Elevate, have painted this picture previously. As a reviewer, one of the hardest aspects to approach is "just OK." You want to be hit with a feeling by everything you listen to, whether it be euphoria or disgust. It is so much easier to write about something you feel for than it is to write about just how something sounds. So with that in mind, Believe is "just OK." "Back to Life," "Tell Me Why," and "I've Had Friends" (which is the clubbiest track on Believe) don't provide us with anything new or exciting in the world of Morgan Page, but become passing fancies that don't leave an impression when the track ends. It doesn't sound like Page really broadened his horizons with this album, outside of providing his own vocals for "In The Dark," a song Molly Bancroft was originally intended to sing on. It is an interesting step for him, using his voice as an instrument rather than having someone else do it. He doesn't sound bad or good, just OK.
The Mood Behind The Music
Page describes his music as "melancholy but hopeful," which is a
description I love about my music. What I don't find in a lot of
Believe is that "hopeful" feeling. Take the title track, for
instance. The lyrics do sound very hopeful, but the musical
arrangement makes Lissie's beliefs like more of a pipe dream than a
possible reality. "Traces Remain" sounds completely morose the entire
time as well. I don't feel the "but hopeful" I am promised by Page.
On the flip side, this means Page creates real music rather than club
tracks, so there is a nice distinction to Page's productions that help
them stand alone from songs designed solely to be danced to. This
could mean most of Believe will be hard to remix for clubs, but I
think the vocals will lend well to more uplifting remixes.
I wanted to like Believe a whole lot more than I did because I do
truly believe Page is one of the most talented producers in the dance
community right now. I wanted to be blown away. I wanted to feel
compelled to listen to every song on repeat at the same time just so I
could take it all in. What I got was something I could forget just as
soon as play, which is a sad reality. This is quality production for
lackluster results. I expect Page can do a lot better, and I hope he
manages to escape his signature sound to explore something new.
Released February 2010 on Nettwerk.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more
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