stuck in this foolish game we play
I know I drive you crazy
while you're just driving me away.
Where once there was desire
there's only bitter cold
our teardrops douse the fire
while memories unfold"
One Word Review: Passionate
Donnie Vie has a new solo album out and it is a celebration of his talent in every way. There is an impressive collection of supremely brilliant melodies on display here. In what amounts to a pretty impressive feat, Donnie has written and recorded the album himself, with the addition of a few friends lending a hand on select tracks. With that in mind, this is truly a solo album.
My history with Donnie Vie dates back to 1992, where I discovered Enuff Z'nuff, a band he fronted, and through the nineties, where they became my favorite band, based on their consistently incredible musical output. Enuff Z'nuff have remained my favorite band, while Donnie Vie began a solo career in 2002 and went back and forth between the band and his solo work. I have yet to find another artist whose musical output has been as consistently enjoyable as Donnie Vie's.
I find it amazing that he has not run out of ideas yet and here, on this, hopefully not his last album, he feels inspired and alive.
The White Album has an abundance of chilling moments. It is very hard to decide where to begin, and with the chance of making this review a confusing mess, I am going to jump right into the middle of the album with Better Love Next Time, a magical song, where upbeat music sets off the song in the simplest way, yet as Donnie starts singing, a boundless melancholic feeling wraps around the song, brought forth with harmonies of sweet beauty and heartfelt singing.
The verse sections are completely inspired, the flow is irresistible and I know deep within that I will never grow tired of this song. The lyrics are Donnie Vie at his best, as he subtly but clearly makes his intent clear. It is a song that might as well have been written by The Beatles.
This is a prime example of what I find so infectious about the album. The vocal melody in the verse section, gently aided by background harmonies conjure a very special soothing atmosphere and when the chorus hits the song transcends a magical boundary.
You wouldn't guess that the album would reach such peaks after the rather funky opening song, I Wanna Do It To You, which finds Donnie at his most playful. At my first listen, I started fearing what the album would bring, yet after repeated listens the song has grown considerably and there is a feeling that it has yet to reach its peak. This can also be said about the album itself. It took three listens before it began opening up, but here, close to 30 listens later, the album has not stopped giving.
Compared to the opener, the contrasting atmosphere of Handy Dandy brings the first disc on an uphill path of melodious twists and turns, from which the remainder of the first disc does not stray. It is a righteous path with much wonder and many surprises.
One of these surprises is For Your Pleasure, a laid back exercise in how an artist lets the listener into his soul. The bridge section at 2:45 that begins with the line "I wish I could erase all of the memories here within in my mind" is completely disarming and can best be described as chilling, sad and strangely uplifting. Though the lyrics describe hard times, there is the feeling that things are sung by someone who got through it and is now looking back, contemplating and moving on, describing a feeling with complete honesty. Moments like these, which can be felt deeply, is a prime example of why I have such a passion for music.
While writing this review my five year old daughter danced around to Happy Days, just before she was hauled off to bed to the opening moments of Crash and Burn. This random moment made me think of the contrasting atmospheres inhabiting the individual songs of the album and the thin red line connecting them being Donnie's vocal performance. The fact that Light Shine On follows Crash and Burn only underlines this. Oh, and someone singing the line "Where there's a will, there's a way" has never sounded quite this good.
Speaking of enchanting passages, give the first 35 seconds of Haunted a listen. I get the feeling that the song embraces me as Donnie's voice rises in momentum and leads the song into its first verse, bringing with it a dark atmosphere in tune with its title. The line "Nobody loves me, nobody needs me" brings me chills every time I hear the passionate delivery and this is another sublime song.
The heartfelt singing continues through the album and lift songs like My Love and Unforsaken to an amazing level. These two songs deserve individual paragraphs of praise but I'll leave them for yourself to discover, with the words that both are brilliant songs.
Unforsaken leads me to make a connection between Donnie Vie and Jim Peterik, another of my favorite songwriters. Here are two guys who understand how to get under the skin of their audience and tell their story through their lyrics in a way that rings true. They have a unique talent, even if their individual approach differs.
I'm a sucker for a song like You're My Favourite Thing To Do. I cannot get over how good this melody is. In a fascinating way, a simple love song soars beyond any boundaries. The lyrics feel right and the musical metaphors connected to the description of being in love hit right home with me. The way the line "Holding you while holding me is like holding my guitar" is delivered is truly beautiful.
This brings me to the way the songs are ordered and split among the two discs. In my mind it would have made perfect sense to open Disc 1 with Handy Dandy and move I Wanna Do It To You to Disc 2. Doing that and moving You're My Favourite Thing To Do and Almost Home to Disc 1 would have made Disc 1 a most incredible experience and something close to a masterpiece, if it had been a single album.
Instead Donnie opted for a double album and this means that a few lesser songs have made their way to the album. When I say lesser, I mean "Songs not destined to be classics". So, I am happy for all the material here, but it would have made perfect sense to have named Disc 2 a bonus disc with demos or likewise and then rearrange the songs. The way it has been released makes for a disjointed experience as it is clear to me that the song order should have been different, in order to give the album a better flow and the most impact.
In the past, production issues have plagued Donnie's solo albums. Here I find that the relatively basic production suits the album fine, because it is persistent and it actually gives the music an unpolished gleam, a rawness which contrasts with the gentle vocal performance, the held back instrumentation and in the end the production brings out the atmosphere in the music in a fantastic way. It makes every listen a new discovery, as there is detail hidden away in the sound, which will only show itself after many listens.
Speaking of the instrumentation on the album, there is nothing fancy about it, only the fact that it doesn't make a fuss about itself and does its utmost to support the songs. That is a subtle but very important compliment, because this is where the focus should be, on the songs themselves.
That said, my focus is of course on the vocals. I am at a loss for words when it comes to describing the effect of Donnie's vocal performance, except to say that it makes the album come alive.
There is an effortless feel to Donnie's songwriting and delivery, and this brings a unique flow to many songs, a flow that immediately sounds like simplicity itself, but with a few listens shows an incredible sophistication, as more layers slowly unfold. This contrast brings a fantastic enjoyment to the music, as it can be enjoyed on multiple levels.
In the end, it is all in the delivery, and throughout the album Donnie's delivery is gentle, held back and undertoned. This is a new side of his abilities and it suits this album so much that it brings it to a whole other level.
Donnie writes, plays and sings as if he doesn't care. He puts it all out there with an incredible amount of passion and feeling. He sounds like an artist, who has come to peace with himself. He sounds complete, as if he has finally found a voice he is comfortable with.
I may hold Enuff Z'nuff as my favorite band and have a strong bias towards Donnie Vie, but believe me or not, I am also his biggest critic when he delivers something that doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. I love his musical output beyond any boundaries and want him to succeed but I don't try to make excuses for any fuckups he makes. Fortunately, the song quality clearly speaks for itself on this album.
The lyrics are a split between heartfelt commentaries on, and ironic nods toward, various elements of his life. Everything is delivered with a hint of wry humor. This also shines through in the cover artwork and I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I saw the image of a pear on the CDs.
The White Album is a sweet, addictive rush of emotion, in equal amounts Mellow & Melancholic in its delivery, and so thoroughly enjoyable that I keep coming back for more. I am inclined to name Donnie Vie, the M&M of music.
Instead of letting this be his final album, as Unforsaken brings me the impression of this being, I hope it shows the way for a new beginning. If this is in fact Donnie Vie's last hurrah, he is going out on a high. The White Album holds some of the finest songs he has ever written. I have a strong feeling that it is not quite time to let Donnie Vie go yet.
Written By Steen
Online: Sunday, December 21, 2014
Monday, December 22, 2014 - Tony Fix
This review is as well written and honest as the white album Great read and a great listen , this better not be his last, my guess it's the beginning of a new chapter! !!!
Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - Steen
Thanks man!! Great to hear you enjoyed it.
Saturday, June 20, 2015 - Rich Peterson
I love this review! I also love Donnie vie, have for a very long time. I hope this is not the end for him. As you said I'm amazed he has to run out of ideas. His lack of success in the business may just stop him from ever making another album. He has said just that before he made this album. I know he's touring EU this summer....I just wish him all success and to keep singing and writing...we would all be at a loss without him.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - Steen
Thanks Rich! Happy to hear you enjoyed the review. I really hope to catch him live on this tour, and that he will expand it with a few more dates.