After several years of experimental flirtations with the classic rock and singer/songwriter models, Rob Alexander is back in business for 2021 with what is inarguably his magnum opus, Dream Out Loud. Dance-centric and driven by songs like the groove-packed “Instant Sex,” the rolling “Love Will Find You” and exotically erotic “La Flambeau,” there is no getting around the sheer physicality of the rhythm section in Dream Out Loud, and truthfully, I don’t know anyone who would want to. Alexander takes a step back from the conventional notion of what a leading vocalist should be in the studio for these select performances, and although he’s never been one to give me an underwhelming vibe prior to now, I don’t believe there’s any debating whether or not he hits this one further out of the park than any material he’s been pitched thus far.
Rhythm is always at the core of the unfolding story in Dream Out Loud, and whether it comes in the form of a decided strut ala “Angel and Johnny” and “Love Will Find You” or the beefy swing of “Hot Potato,” it has as much of an influence over how we read these lyrics as anything the vocal does. From ballads to bruisers, Rob Alexander shows off a selflessness with the microphone in his hand that is something I wouldn’t expect from a powerhouse singer with his kind of a skillset, but all the same, he still manages to make this a freewheeling record devoid of any self-indulgence.
The surprisingly conservative arrangement of the vocals in “Nothing to Be Afraid of Now,” the potent “A Song to Get Us Through” and the title cut in Dream Out Loud is necessary to make the grooves in each of these songs bolder in tone, and never does it feel like Alexander is sacrificing showmanship for sonic virtuosity. There’s nothing here to indicate that he had to compromise in what he likely had planned for this LP from the get-go; quite frankly, I think the formats of the rocking “Kings and Queens” and “Nothing to Be Afraid of Now,” as cosmetically contrasting as they are, show us a bigger picture made to demonstrate detail and delicate vulnerability. Multilayered music is this guy’s forte, and that’s known to most anyone who has heard his work before.
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A stunning addition to a discography I’ve been steadily falling in love with over the past three years, Dream Out Loud is every bit the masterpiece Rob Alexander would have hoped for it to be – if not a smashing way of announcing his supremacy over his peers in every department. He isn’t holding back from giving us as much of the powerful intensity his band can muster together, but while their might is something to marvel at all by itself, it is Alexander ruling at the helm of the ship that tends to make for the most compelling of elements in the mix. He has my complete respect for this release, and I have a feeling he’s going to win yours as well.