Eagle-Eye Cherry offers up his third album, Sub Rosa, some five years after the runaway success of Save Tonight, three years after his mainly unremarkable second album Living In The Second Future, after some extensive touring and even a guest appearance on Santana‘s Supernatural album. After a late start (he only started song-writing in 1996, age 26) the man has been busy.
As expected from Eagle-Eye, the vocals are as warm, rich and sweet as molten caramel, making the album the aural equivalent of an afternoon in a big leather sofa sipping a macchiato. His voice resonates consistently through the variety of songs on offer, providing a touchstone against losing the way in some of the more experimental pieces.
Skull Tattoo and Feels So Right are as good examples of pop songs as you could want to hear anywhere, with simple catchy choruses, tunes that you will be humming hours later and insistent rhythms that make you tap your toes or even want to dance. Both seem made for sing-along encores when Eagle-Eye goes back on tour. Feels So Right in particular seems like the Save Tonight of the album, although its impact may be heightened by the fact that the relatively weak How Come precedes it.
Musically, Eagle-Eye rings a few changes around the guitar, drum and bass basics, with some strings adding depth in Don’t Give Up, guitar solos and electronica beepings in Up To You and some particularly funky bass in Crashing Down. The final song, If You Don’t Know By Now, ends with what sounds like a fun, spontaneous jamming session of real musicianship.
Eagle-Eye’s original vocation as a drummer also shines through with some great drum rhythms in Skull Tattoo and good use of percussion in Crashing Down. That said, it is the repetitive, almost militaristic, drums on How Come which make that song a real disappointment.
Lyrically, Cherry tends towards pared-down pop, which sometimes means catchy, but sometimes means monotony or banality. Repeating the phrase, “How come,” six times does not a chorus make. At times, though, the lyrics exhort listeners to a better world (“We must believe that if we give we will receive / We must believe it’s gonna get better”) and it seems that “How come” is a heartfelt (if overly repeated) cry for meaning.
And the album title? Literally it means “under the rose”, and apparently this is when something is said in secret, to indicate how Eagle-Eye feels about his music – that it is just him and the music, behind closed doors. These are doors he is opening for us to enter through, and with a voice dripping sweetness, sing-along tunes and toe-tapping rhythms, the prospect is inviting enough.