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The line “Sweet as sugar” ringing through Johnny Kaplan’s voice on the first song, “Sparkle and Shine,” might as well be the entire review of Johnny Kaplan and the lazy star’s fourth album, Sparkle And Shine. And with the light, playful piano-guitar combination during the breakdown of the track, this song is an ear-pleaser and a great kick-starter to a wonderful record.
For a group who has achieved not only television play but has also been on major tours with Kings of Leon and Lucinda Williams, Kaplan still feels as if his group has “been soaring just under the radar in the U.S. for years,” he says on his website. But if there was any album that would kick his name around and into households, it has to be this one.
With Kaplan’s uniquely high-pitched voice, and every instrument utilized from a banjo to a harmonica to a violin, each song is a new and pleasant curveball.
“Annalee Meets the Scorpion” is an interesting, 80s-country-western style, while “Always” is completely acoustic.
The other songs feature duets, acoustic sets and dabble into nearly every musical territory.
And while the lyrics are nothing extraordinary, they are far from cliché. Words such as “Come on old friend of mine you know the way to my heart, you’ve got to leave me Mr. Cocaine far behind” from “Billing’s Blues” is a an interesting lyrical twist, which keeps the listener on their toes.
Musicianship: 8.5/10 This group is a finely tuned, melodic machine - one that can satisfy any musical mood.
Creativity: 9/10 Every song is so uniquely individual it’s a wonder that the band manages to make nearly all of them seem pleasant and fresh to the ear.
Reviewer’s Tilt: 7.5/10. While Kaplan and his lazy stars are something to listen to, Kaplan does not have a beautiful, wide-ranging voice. And never does Kaplan really show extreme passion in his music.