09.16.06 by Monya De
I'll admit I'm a big fan of the group Thriving Ivory, so I was delighted when they finally released an official debut album, the culmination of years that produced two EPs that were worn out by fans all over California and new songs previously only heard live. The band's sound is big arena-rock reminiscent of U2 and Coldplay, and Live 105 radio in San Francisco has already taken the band under its wing with generous airplay of the sing-along anthem "Angels on the Moon".
But my excitement soon dissipated. True, the new songs sounded fantastic, including "Angels" and "Hey Lady", which sounds like a romantic serenade just for the listener (most of Thriving Ivory's are female). But the production some of the tracks previously distributed on the EPs was a striking disappointment. "Runaway," "Light Up Mississippi," and other songs were what drew fans in in the first place, with unusually deft layering of sound, heartfelt singing from Clayton Stroope, and lush, lovely piano arrangements that set the band apart from the 50,000 alterna-rock boy bands operating today. On the album, which is self-titled, producer Chris Manning dumbs down those lovely songs, cutting the keyboard interludes and stripping all that instrumental complexity down to a strident, uninspired march to the end of the requisite three and a half minutes. I can't imagine that keyboardist Scott Jason, the soul of the group, wasn't frustrated at playing static chords when previously there was more. Stroope did not escape this either; he has re-recorded the vocals on some songs and sounds even shrill at some points. At other moments, his voice is drowned in the rhythm section. "Unhappy" largely succeeds, but Stroope still sounds like he's trying to fight his way to the front. He is an enormously gifted singer, with a tenor range some women can't even match, and to not hear him properly is suboptimal.
It's not that it's not an enjoyable album. I would still rate it as a "buy" for the uninitiated. TI will likely become big in the near future, and now's your chance to catch their terrific live show at venues around California . But do yourself a favor, and download the original versions of "Runaway," "Light Up Mississippi," "Secret Life," "Long Hallway with a Broken Light," and "Day of Rain."