In an era where so many artists are just dropping singles and the occasional EP to keep our attention, veteran multi-talented actor, singer, songwriter, pianist– and above all, brilliantly poetic storyteller – John Allee asks for a major commitment of time and deeply emotional (but quite often, frolicsome) immersion from us with the wildly diverse 17 tracks of his fourth album, the cleverly titled Past Imperfect.
Though tempos shift at breakneck speed and he bounces effortlessly from sensitive crooner to witty, breathless showman, the journey’s well worth it, starting with his rangy vocals and otherworldly scatting on the hipster, bass and drum driven opener “Let’s Hear It” and continuing through the slow cookin’ blues of the wry Vegas romp “Until The Money’s Gone” to the toned down, darkly melancholy closing anti love song lament “Where’s The Door?” Other enticing entry points include the playfully romantic “A Typical Paris Affair,” the starkly soulful “Truth Be Told,” the funky, nostalgic “Those Letters” and the quick witted (and speedily sung) “Get a Real Job.”
Kind of like what Billy Joel might have done if he could have given every character from “Piano Man” his or her own song, Allee presents a splendid, alternately heartfelt, charming, gently reflective and incisively pointed fictionalized chronicle of colorful characters he’s met (or will meet) and stories he’s heard (or imagined) throughout his 40-year career in showbiz.
Packaging is definitely pricey these days, but Past Imperfect would benefit from an insert featuring every line of Allee’s vibrant life portraits – which could surely be enjoyed and recited as pure poetry. But like he says, after sharing his hopes that these tunes will connect with dreamers and schemers everywhere, “it swings. You dig?”
The joy of the album is never knowing what tempo, vocal timbre, subject or style (jazz, blues, pop, folk, you name it) his powerhouse ensemble (anchored by the propulsive magic of bassist Mike Schnoebelen and drummer John Harvey) is going to treat us to next.