Wayne Olivieri – Eclectic Mind
The third release from New Jersey based singer/songwriter Wayne Olivieri, Eclectic Mind, on his own label Oneway Records marks the return of an artist who has flown under the mainstream radar for many years while still boasting a personal and professional resume that, alone, hints at the scope of his talents. Olivieri began his professional musical journey as a teen and shared the stage at legendary venues like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City with legendary artists like Blondie, Talking Heads, and The Ramones among many others. His journey later found him headlining clubs like the famous Stony Pony in New Jersey and opening for other illustrious musical artists like Cindi Lauper, Huey Lewis, and Billy Idol. The multi-instrumental’s considerable live and recording experience emerges strongly from Eclectic Mind’s thirteen songs. Olivieri, initially, envisioned this as an EP release, but judged that the strength and wealth of material he had on hand for the recording merited a full length release instead. The inspiration in these performances isn’t difficult to hear.
“She’s My Girl” opens the album with an idiosyncratic bounce and a lot of buoyancy. It’s a playful, celebratory track with a charismatic Olivieri vocal that sounds like he’s having the time of his life. There’s some tasty guitar fills peppering the song with spice and the straight forward groove recalls Olivieri’s influences without ever sounding unduly beholden to them. There’s a wisp of desperation making it into his vocal on “I’m Broke Again”, but Olivieri never overdoes it and few singers in recent memory have made financial destitution sound so jovial. The percolating backing track helps keeps things equally lively. The bluesy guitar twang and harmonica riffing opening “I’m a Music Man” sets the stage well for one of Eclectic Mind’s most powerful tunes and a big, broad-chested rocker. There’s something quite exhilarating about the song’s pride and defiance without ever slipping into stridency.
“You and Me” has a much more stylized pop edge in contrast. Pop, however, isn’t intended as a slight in this context. Instead, it’s a top shelf expression of connection that never cheats the listener with musical or lyrical shortcuts. Olivieri’s performance is heartfelt without ever risking bathos and has a maturity in its point of view we don’t often hear from AOR rock. “Never Made a Stand” opens with some beautifully arranged piano work that seems to be setting us up for a ballad and he follows through quite well. The lyrics are remarkably vulnerable – few songwriters risk such culpability. Olivieri, however, sings it with impassioned and fearless honesty. There is no additional accompaniment and there doesn’t need to be. Instead, it’s just Wayne Olivieri, a piano, and one man’s personal truth. “How It’s Supposed To Be” moves the needle back to the rock spectrum, albeit not as forcefully as on “I’m a Music Man”, but it’s mid-tempo guitar rock with a steady groove and another deeply felt vocal from Olivieri. The album’s finale, “Heart of a Man”, is an excellent closer with a slow-burning blues feel and top notch lyrical content from Olivieri that displays some great, practically pyrotechnic wordplay. Eclectic Mind is every bit as eclectic as its title implies and the great thing is that Wayne Olivieri seems at home and comfortable with its myriad of styles. This is an excellent release from start to finish.
9 out of 10 stars