Chris Beland Presents New Album 'What I Believe'
Although Chris Beland calls his album “What I Believe,” it is not always an explicitly spiritual album. At least not as spiritually centered as are his past efforts. This is not to say it does not contain spiritual
content. It’s probably impossible for Beland to write and play music that doesn’t draw upon his beliefs. Instead, it’s a collection of thoughtful, introspective songs.
The album’s longest song, “Tunnel,” is also its prettiest. Augmented by strings and piano, it carries with it a sophisticated, classical and classic pop-rock quality. Beland is a bit of a Zelig at times, too,
because the very next song, “World,” sounds like British music hall music. It also has a “la la la” chorus that sounds straight out of a Blur Brit Pop hit. Beland is not a Brit, by the way. However, it’s
likely impossible not to hear some of those across-the-pond sounds and filter them through one’s own persona. Lyrically, this track mentions Dr. Martin Luthor King’s name, which suggests how his admonition to “be the world again” might well involve racial reconciliation.
Stylistically, Beland’s music – although it rocks a bit now and again – leans toward the power-pop end of the sonic spectrum. One called “I Don’t Think It’s a Sign,” for instance, is built upon a driving electric
guitar riff/groove, tinged with keyboard fills. Its overall feel brings to mind Jackson Browne during his rockier moments. Browne is, at heart, a folk singer who made his mark during the singer/songwriter movement in the ‘70s. He ended up being accepted by the AOR crowd during that
decade, even though he never really rocked as hard as most the others on radio station playlists. Nevertheless, he could crank it up – just a tad – at times. This can also be said of Beland’s song here. Its electric guitar driven but driven tastefully and never unbridled or unhinged.
The next one, “Conspiracy,” is more in Beland’s musical wheelhouse. He sings it rather gently, while backed by a quiet, stripped-down percussion bed. ‘Conspiracy’ has become a contemporary buzzword these days. What is and isn’t a conspiracy, depends upon which end of the economic/political side of the spectrum you find yourself. Beland admits to doing some spiritual questioning of late, so the song’s lyrics may refer back to some of these philosophical queries. Philosophers have said that the unexamined life is not worth living, and one gets the distinct impression Beland is examining many of his pre-conceived ideas with a microscope – if necessary.
Beland is at his most vulnerable during “Feel Like Cryin’,” which features his delicate vocal, sung over an electric piano arrangement. This instrumentation is most often applied to jazz music, but this isn’t jazz. In fact, it’s a bit Beatle-esque, in that its melody and performance may remind you of John Lennon’s more searching musical exercises.
Branding an album as What I Believe inevitably leads to asking – if not always answering – life’s biggest questions. Chris Beland is no shallow singer/songwriter. He doesn’t ever want to fill the world with silly love songs. Instead, his album is his place for thinking out loud, with songs, and it’s a rewarding forum due to his many and varied thoughts.