On The Cusp Album Series: Transitions, Westbound Train

On the Cusp Album series focuses on albums by unknown bands that just miss out on the Modern Classic category, if only lacking due to a few weak songs, however most of these albums could be brought up over the top by the listeners interpretation.

More on the first addition to the series after the jump

Westbound is a Boston reggae ska outfit.  However, unlike most white boy ska groups, Westbound Train gets the grooves right and features a great live dynamic horn and vocal section.  The guitar parts are also arranged to perfection, from burning leads to perfect backing chucking rhythms.  Transitions was an album that came out in 2006 without much promotion or hype, though it features a great number of solid songs, driven mostly by its strong vocal performances and horn melodies, as well as an active rhythm section anchored by lively drums and bubbly bass-lines.  Highlights include Please Forgive Me, Good Enough, For the First Time, I’m No Different, Gone, The Runaround, I Feel Fine, When I Die, and Travel On. The rest of the album is pretty strong but don’t live up to the albums finest cuts, however the album cohesively lives up to its title, ably covering and exemplifying the transition of sound found in the reggae ska style, from soulful croons to rocksteady beats.

1. Transitions

Transitions provides an interesting little introduction into the album filled with live ambience that perfectly transitions (sorry) into the first real cut.

2. Please Forgive Me

An upbeat and intricate arrangement with bright horns driven by a dynamic vocal performance, Please Forgive Me provides a perfect introduction into Westbound Train’s sound and style.  The country tinged guitar solo adds a nice unexpected touch to the whole affair, and the chorus is catchy as hell.

3. Good Enough

Please Forgive me ends with a resonating organ chord which brings the album into the next song with a resounding reverbed snare roll, this song features a strong horn melody and another dynamic vocal with nice backing harmonies.  A nice saxaphone solo comes in a little after midway through and manages to put a nice twist on the recording.

4. For the First Time

For the First Time is an upbeat take on an old school melody, reminiscent of Motown and the Impressions style horn arrangements.  The focus is on the vocal melody, an uplifting interplay with the rhythm and chord changes around it. The trumpet takes a turn at the solo this time around to great effect after the band seems to be bursting at the seems.

5. The Test

The Test is an old reggae/ska style horn instrumental, gritty and warmly recorded, the interplay between the members of the horn section is fantastic.  Miles Davis and John Coltrane it ain’t but it doesn’t try to be.

6. Sorry Mama

An organ and horn dominated arrangement leads the proceedings with some nice backing harmonies and upbeat melody.  The vocals take center stage her, with his warbling style put to great use.

7. I’m No Different

I’m No Different starts with a soulful Otis Redding like introduction, and features classic soul styled lyrics throughout.  All the instruments provide a nice backing and the chorus is another catchy one thats hard to get out of your head.  And those sweet backing harmonies  only make it all the more enjoyable.

8. Gone

Another country tinged song, albeit much more sweetly romantic with a strong horn melody and a nice breathy slow vocal.

9. The Runaround

The most driving song on the album with the band in top form.  The vocalist brings across so much energy into the recording and this features probably the best guitar solo on the album, full of fire and energy.

10. Seven Ways to Sunday

More of a classic ska number than anything, the horns are the centerpiece of this song.

11. Transition 2

Another ambient transition that brings the album into my favorite song.

12. I Feel Fine

Starting with some great hammer-on piano chords, this song bursts into a warm and energetic horn line that amplifies the great vocal performance within.  The sax solo is also in top form, simply the strongest song on the album with a lively chorus and a peak performance by the whole band.

13. Fatty Boom Boom!

Another old school style recorded ska type number, not really my favorite, but great harmonies if you’re into the whole ska style.

14. When I Die

Another soulful number that wouldn’t be out of place on Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come filled with bright guitar and horn lines and a nice rhythm section.

15. Travel On

Starting with a female vocal sample, this song fades into some great organ and drum interplay with a great melodic hook, a great closer to the album.


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