BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
At this point in his career, Steve Barton’s solo efforts rival those of his much ballyhooed band Translator. He’s achieved an exceptional standing with each endeavor, but considering his ongoing ambitions, he’s clearly equalled the accomplishments he once claimed early on. If any further proof is needed, one need only refer to his new album, Tall Tales and Alibis, as an ideal example. Flush with ambition, this three CD set suggests that Barton had plenty of music yet to express and was only waiting for an opportune time to share it in its entirety. An obvious opus, it’s Barton’s version of the White Album as far as the diversity of ideas is concerned, and yet it’s all the more impressive considering the fact that he wrote the majority of the songs, wholly produced the first two discs and played the most of the instruments singlehandedly.
Of course none of that would matter if quality wasn’t on equal footing with quantity. A combination of bare-boned ballads, ominous Lou Reed-like intonations, populist protest tunes, and straight-on rockers, it finds Barton excising his emotions in ways that resonate with craft, creativity and conviction. Even with 37 songs, the bar remains consistently high, with nary a wasted moment to be found. Several of its offerings — the anthemic “How Can I Believe,” the beguiling “Breath” and “Northwest Girl,” and a remarkable take on the Rolling Stones standard “Dandelion” that’s freshly retuned — rank among the best efforts of Barton’s career. Granted, he has some help at times — drummers Pete Thomas and Dave Scheff, the Wondermints’ Nelson Bragg and producer/multi-instrumentalist Marvin Etzioni all lend their talents to the third side. Yet when Barton emphatically declares “I fucking love you” on final track “I Fly,” it becomes a singular statement that exudes its own special sort of enthusiasm. A more spirited statement of purpose would be hard to imagine.
DOWNLOAD: “How Can I Believe,” “Dandelion,” “I Fly”