Music » Record Review

Tokyo Rosenthal's Love Won Out

(Rock & Sock Records)

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Tokyo Rosenthal's languid blend of roots, blues and jazz has its charms, and many of them will be quite well worn for some and quite irksome for others. Where you land on the jazzy bossa nova of "Little Poetry Girl" and the smoldering blues-funk of "Random Noises," for instance, undoubtedly reflects your own musical biases and bases. If the swing of jazz flute and a smoky Traffic-stalled aroma suits you, Rosenthal's got your number here. Fortunately—for these ears, at least—Rosenthal's broad stylistic sweep means he finds another kind of tune or two for almost everyone.

The album's best moments are spent in a folk-rock trot. The terrific "St. Patrick's Day" opens, its Celtic jangle met with a '50s rock undertone, reminiscent of Charlie Sexton's "Beat So Lonely." Rosenthal squanders momentum with the nearly six-minute melancholic ode to a love that never was with "We Planted Seeds." Despite wonderful pedal steel by Flying Burrito Brother Al Perkins, the song meanders with mawkish sentimentality and the repeated phrase "nostalgia by the gallon, as we paint a second coat." That gets less-than-clever pretty quickly. After the misdirection (or misstep, again depending on whom you ask) of "Little Poetry Girl," the album regains its footing with the fine, slow-burn gospel-soul of "Who's to Say What Might Have Been."

Love Won Out's second half is also a mixed bag, but the highlights, like "A Word for You" and the title track, are strong: The former is a Byrds-like 12-string acoustic number with a clomping beat and searching undertone, showcasing Rosenthal's willowy tenor and some keen picking. The latter is a bluesy rave whose rollicking shamble makes it particularly beguiling, though the song is little more than a 12-bar shuffle. It benefits from the coy closing couplet "Don't ask/ don't tell/ can go to hell/ because love won out." While there's more good than bad here, Love Won Out's eclecticism wanders avenues some listeners will never follow.

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