Three Cities Band:
Anthony Decker - Drums
David L. Herring - Keyboard
Patrick Brown - Guitar
Terel Lynn - Lead Vocals
All writing credits not included here, those listed were verified with artist.
For the full review of Three Cities - For the Price of One, I decided to depart somewhat from the clinical “track-by-track” analysis I’ve employed in the past. Enjoying the full album experience is the most important assessment for me personally, hearing the natural progression of a strong beginning, and in this case to an equally strong finish. Three Cities has achieved that in a way that is thought provoking, and leaves you longing for a second listen.
When I first heard this album I instantly recognized its originality and collaboration. A 13-track freshman album is impressive all on its own. For four guys to work together this well and produce such a prolific first time outing, you would expect a laboriously sounding effort, filled with fillers and fluff injected into the the overall content. Yet in this case, quantity in no way compromised quality. With notable similarities in the writing styles on each track, this four man band from the collective surrounding areas; (Lafayette, Fort Wayne, and Marion - “Three Cities”) produce an overall smooth pressing, the result of an exceptional collaborative effort - Three Cities - For the Price of One.
Upon first listen, it sounded as if their influences were bands that fell outside the usual timeline. In other words, a petty analysis of ‘I heard Zeppelin or Hendrix’ for example, simply won’t do. While those notes are present in the fabric, their sound is much more than that. It’s unique and diverse. There’s more going on there than the traditional garage band fodder that results from spending your teenage years revisiting rock classics. It drops seamlessly from rock n’ roll, into jazzy funk, into breakdown driven jams.
If you’re struggling to detect influence, you’ll need to think more diversely. Think old school. For me it was throwbacks such as the progressive Aldo Nova, emotional hit band Night Ranger, and some of the opus style performances from Kansas. Yet still, more than that. The obvious point here being that these influences were likely bands that some of these guys weren't hearing by the time they were teenagers. Furthering my belief that influence has always fallen into the cyclical nature of music. Influence breeds influence. Theirs would have mostly peaked during the 1980’s if I gauge their perspective ages accurately. Regardless, the collaboration delivers.
It's pure and honest rock.
*A forward regarding my lyric Interps:
Each time I listened to the album in its entirety (over twenty times at the time of this paragraph edit) a multitude of imagery was evoked during several songs. Attempting to determine the message inferred by me personally, I labored in lyrical analysis ad nauseum until I finally decided that no matter what it meant to me, or the intended meaning by the artists themselves; I should let you, the listener decide for yourself. There are several tracks on this album that suggest periods of discovery and revelation. Please know as my reader, this was much deliberated.
Track 1's - An Introduction Brown - (0:51) reminds us that there's nothing quite like a Python-esque comedic album opener to tease your brain for the expectation of a rock album. I’ve known a few that have wowed, and a few that haven’t. You have no idea what’s coming. At first you find yourself wondering “how long will this intro take?” then you brace yourself for inevitable triumph, or disappointment; whichever it turns out to be. Then you are pleasantly surprised when it not only breaks into a bitchin’ track, but it sets a pace that doesn’t let up for several more. Once they bust out with that second song, you instantly know there’s more to them than whimsical intros. 3C’s doesn’t disappoint, letting us know from the start that they don’t take themselves as seriously as they take their music.
And they take their music very seriously indeed. I’ve met the guys and seen them live...after which the intro means so much more - ;)
Time Will Tell, the second track, is literally bounced onto from the intro track, as if you’ve jumped from one stage to another. It’s a healthy first tune at (5:14) in length, promising a nice ‘full’ listen.
Keyboards are often lost in translation, even on good rock albums. They’re often better suited for jazz or funk. Not the case for For the Price of One. It sounds as if David Herring is literally standing on the keys, rhythmically targeting Terel Lynn’s powerfully harmonic yet gritty vocals, and Patrick Brown’s guitar foundation matches all. Anthony Decker pulls it all together, maintaining some very precise kit work. No unnecessary flairs - he’s a precision player, and it shows on all tracks.
The entire band is fully present at the onset. It has all the great elements of a hit. Mini-solos, an eccentric and mysteriously haunting yet uplifting breakdown, a crescendo build back to bridge and repeat pre-chorus, back to mini-solos by both Brown and Herring. I love this song! It’s a well-chosen anchor that holds the pull of the rest of the album.
They break in full force with all instruments on overdrive. This will likely be their radio hit once it gets airplay, rivaled only by the end track What’s Inside. The strong forceful opening of Time Will Tell has all instruments at their maximum potential, with an intense energy throughout, making it a listener's safe haven.
It's well-crafted, well-constructed musically, and delivers in every way. I especially love the quick break right before the guitar solo hook.
NOTE: You must listen to the intro-to-first track transition without dead air. Purchase the album for this reason only, and no one will fault you. If you don’t, you’re cheating yourself.
A strong anti-doubt message runs throughout. Draw your own conclusion, but this song seems to serve well, anyone intent on proving their worth to another.
And it's fantastic live - ;)
Overturning Tables comes in at Track 3. At (3:42), and although it's early in the project, I consider it the centerpiece for the first half of the album. Lyrically, it's a very interesting diversion. An adventure if you will. This song evokes intense imagery. Draw your own conclusions as to its origin or undercurrent, but it's a great tune. It makes use of the same construct that Time Will Tell utilized, in a slightly higher gear, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. It's a unique transition, and bodes well for the remaining tracks.
The first, quick, fall in tempo (pre-chorus) reinforces the story to come. I concluded what this song meant for me almost immediately. Draw your own (see above)* but my lyrical inference made it an immediate favorite for me.
This track is the only track on the album that I felt was a tad too short. I wanted more at the end...it left me yearning for more.
Songs such as Track 4’s Den Of Remembrance (a lengthy 7:22) serve up a moody mixture for the listener.
You find yourself reeling off of the preceding two tracks with an expectant mood. Then halfway into the song preparing for an emotional diversion. The pace of the song is right, and it brings with it a somberness that's neither laborious nor unrewarding.
Den has one of the more interesting bridges in it. An uplifting track to a point, not quite as triumphant as Time, it leads you into a very, very cool guitar and keyboard breakdown, complete with equally cool background vocal shouts, complete with keyboard coolness. The ending alludes to the beginning in a rock ballad way, instructing the listener to call on their own memory to better serve their future decisions.
For the Price of One does have what I call the ‘middle melancholy’. It has a treat for an intro, a pace-setting hit, a great ending, a decent flow. I know good songs are written in sad times. It by no means diminishes the album. But some listeners might find themselves yearning near the middle for an upbeat sound to bring them back to the horizon.
Track 5, Runnin’ To You, has all the right jazz elements, rock elements, vocal takes. It's a groovy track and I dig it. Lynn opens up a bit more on this track...gives it the soulful feel necessary to make you want to sing along and relate to the lyrics. Brown’s talent is highlighted on this track as well, departing from the rock anthem style that dominates the rest of the pressing. And Herring’s “Doors”-like keyboard work here adds extended flavor. Brown flexes his riffing in this track as well.
It’s a love song written under a funky spell. It’s beautiful...
Notable on Track 6’s - Dethroned, are the extended piano work and the transitions. It has slower piano musings that fit well. Lyrically it sounds as if it’s verging momentarily into a thought experiment on social castes, but it’s not lofty. I like it as a musical backdrop for the listener to engage in introspection and the view of others against our own perceptions.
Need comes in at Track 7. A slightly longer but soulful dip, with lead vocals that are expressive and romantic, with several crescendos and an almost ‘faux’ key change that is uplifting. It keeps you there with subtle promises of the next incursion.
This is my favorite of Lynn’s softer vocals...not only soulful, but honest. The compulsory groove that you fall into with his vocal arcs pulls you away (however slightly) from its lyrical heaviness. It’s an extension of the three ‘ballad-type’ songs leading up to it. Good for a listener who has loved and lost, and laments the same.
Track 8 - Contagio
I’m not sure that this short track, with an almost Dream Theater story-like poetry, rebounds musically against it’s predecessor. It’s experimental and progressive. It sort of became my pet as I pondered whether its metaphorical placement was appropriate here, or that it simply worked musically in its track position. It did a bit of both...in an interesting way.
Anthony’s Garage - Track 9 provides an immediate and redemptive return to the fun-rock style that ramped up our jamming meters much like Time Will Tell. It’s an explosive plea, begging us to clear our mental slate and grab a fresh piece of chalk, and draw a picture of hanging out in what we can assume is the drummer’s garage. The song is well placed, has surprising extra riffs and keyboard spots, and it’s a lyrical return to the ultra-fun 80’s and 90’s summertime rock and roll era, complete with extra piano parts that make it sweeter.
I want to go there - :)
Track 10 - The Pessimist brings my one and only ding as a listener. It has the right idea I think, and an appropriate construct. But there’s something that feels disjointed in the lyrics that caused me a slight mental reset.
What it does have however, is a cool diversion wherein two vocalists play off each other lyrically. On the third or fourth pass I gave it more credence, mostly for non-lyrical reasons. Not to pick on a particular tune, but this one pulled me in an abrupt way that I had to re-think to recover. But hey...it’s called The Pessimist! This makes me wonder a little...was that the artist’s intention? Did Three Cities want us to shake our mental Etch-a-Sketch and prepare for the next tune?
I like the keys at 2:35. This track also has one of my favorite closing melodies on the album. The dwindling keys at the end are exactly my kind of progressive…I dig that.
Track 11 - I Am Me - is a prose-like song of self-worth and determination. It has a bluesy intro, and what I believe is the only acoustic appearance on the album. It has classic style vocals, showing more talent than one might expect from an acoustic interlude. I especially enjoyed the uplifting nature of the composition. It’s a step-off the porch if you will, giving the listener an honest reprieve, preparing us for an extended epic in Track 12.
It could almost be spoken word. Sure enough...
“For 'I Am Me' (Track 11), Terel had written the lyrics more as poetry, not in the context of a song by any means.“ - guitarist Patrick Brown.
Brown went on to describe how a video chat session eventually led to lyrics, the right chords, and the melody for the chorus. Good for us the listeners, that this collaboration led to the song making the cut.
Track 12’s - Rush On, while not the longest tune on the album (five songs are greater than 6 minutes so...score!), it’s yet another restful moment as the band takes a long breath before the last track. Lynn’s vocals however, do NOT rest on this track. He expresses an ever present battle of self in a powerful delivery that stays with you emotionally.
This song might be considered an overall departure from my personal perception of 3C’s general style with its Zeppelin’esque intro; although it surprises on several fronts. I especially love the subtle timing switches.
Track 13 - What’s Inside
Brown, Decker, Herring, Lynn - (7:06)
What a closer! The guitar hook (or hooks I should say) in this song are the best on the album in my opinion. I love the riffs in the breakdowns. Not just because they’re ‘shred’ as they say, but because they bring a reward that sits atop to a well constructed lead-in. This is also my second choice (perhaps leaning toward first choice) for radio airplay.
The capstone for me to this album, is that the best hooks are instrumental throughout. They pop in often and unexpectedly.
This is the most technically challenging song I encountered on the album. It deserved over a dozen passes to completely understand the individual performance subtleties throughout. I love the bridge, I love the chorus return, I love the guitar hook. I like Lynn’s vocals on this one, as well as Decker’s crashing kit work.
I can see why they chose it as the closer. It’s an honest, feel-good closing song. The mood throughout this tune is comforting, triumphant, and rewarding - as a closer should be. It says to the listener, “Hey! Thank you for listening, take this with you and think about us, we’ll be here when you come back, ready to go.”
It has two builds, and an unexpected third at 2:55! I love that extension of creativity. Herring’s keyboard bridge afterward all but opens the door for another guitar hook...and obligatory scale run on Brown’s fret through additional small builds, culminating in an orchestral ending.
At least that what it says to me - :)
Then of course, they end it as they began...a tuba with whimsical vamping to take us out. Close it like you opened it...groovy and Python-esque.
After personally meeting these cats, I can better appreciate the creative levels to which they’ve risen as a collective.
That exuberance is the stuff the sound of Three Cities is made of. They not only rock it hard, but they are SO MUCH FUN live. That transfers directly to their recorded works. In this freshman album’s case, there is a very present fearless attitude. I expect that 3C’s will continue the eclectic mix on their sophomore album.
It’s fresh, groovy, crisp, fresh...it's powerful.
And best of all...it’s fearless!
Slow down Lafayette, and listen to a full album. Three Cities...For the Price of One.
For The Price Of One
2016 Three Cities LLC
“Anthony, David, Patrick, and Terel teamed up under the idea that loud guitars, wailing keys, banging drums, and soulful vocals needed a comeback.”
Learn more about the Three Cities Band and purchase their music at these links:
Full writing credits:
Introduction - Brown
Time Will Tell - Brown, Decker, Lynn
Overturning Tables - Brown
Den of Remembrance - Brown
Runnin' To You - Lynn
Dethroned - Lynn
Need - Lynn
Contagio - Decker
Anthony's Garge - Decker, Lynn
Pessimist - Herring
I Am Me - Lynn
Rush On - Brown
What's Inside - Brown, Decker, Herring, Lynn
Music review and promotion in central Indiana and surrounding areas since 2013