[twitter style=”vertical” float=”left”] [fbshare type=”button”] [google_plusone size=”standard” annotation=”none” language=”English (UK)”] Planetary Nights is the musical vehicle of singer-songwriter R.J. McSweeney. The sound and style have evolved over the three albums released on the Planetary Nights label since 2009 and reflect an Americana vibe, dynamic storyline, as well as an assortment of influences soaked up in the clubs and music venues of his hometown New York City over the decades. Shout-outs from over 16,000 fans at www.jango.com/music/planetarynights often refer to those roots of past and present songwriting inspiration.
His latest studio album “Today Ain’t Too Late” was produced by roots rock veteran Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (www.ericambel.com), who also contributed his renowned guitar wizardry. Together with R.J.’s lead vocals and rhythm guitars, Kelley Looney (Steve Earle) on bass, Rob Thomas (Peter Frampton) on keys and Phil Cimino (Chris Barron) on drums, the album delivers a wide range of original rockers and ballads.
Planetary Nights’ first album Elliptical Motion was produced by Mark Hermann (Five for Fighting) and includes Rob Clores (Black Crowes) on keys and Graham Hawthorne (David Byrne, Paul Simon) on drums. Several songs from Elliptical Motion have received extensive FM and Internet radio airplay and the album was selected by RadioIndy as one of the best rock albums of 2009.
Planetary Nights songs have been licensed and featured by the A&E Network (“Dog the Bounty Hunter” episode), ESPN (theme song for a 21-segment Sports Center series; Southeastern and Big East football) and the Alliance of Action Sports.
Songs recorded at NYC gigs appear on the Planetary Nights album Live n’ Untethered, released in 2010. The music has received excellent reviews, like Billboard Discoveries: “Road Trip”, the rip-roaring first single from Planetary Nights’ 14-track Elliptical Motion is an ideal showcase for the musical vision of singer/songwriter R.J. McSweeney, the namesake behind the band. Licensed by ESPN for its “Sports Center”, the song beckons, “We’re taking a trip, we’re going together/To the hills or the shore, it don’t really matter/Your love and laughter are all I’m after.
Good times, huh? Equally robust, N.Y.C. offers a shout-out to McSweeney’s home base, displaying his obvious penchant for classic rock, blues and soul. The more restrained Starting Over, If Ever, Ebony Eyes and Hide Away reveal the musician’s more soulful side with equal skill.”
Americana, as defined by the Americana Music Association (AMA), is “music that honors and is derived from the traditions of American roots music. It is music inspired by American culture traditions which is not only represented in classic man made / roots based sounds but also through new and contemporary artists whose music is clearly inspired by these great traditions.”
The Planetary Nights’ project by R.J. McSweeney fits neatly into this description, with Mcsweeney’s voice and songwriting sound sitting somewhere between the best Bob Seger and Johnny Mellencamp.
In fact the album takes off with the mid-tempo, Bob-Seger-sounding, “Embers”. A gravelly voice pitched over clean guitars and a solid 4/4 beat sets the mood.
“Today Ain’t Too late” and “Harmony” are slightly harder and rockier then the opening track, with the latter track, branding a compulsive lead guitar riff.
As always on many rock orientated albums, it’s inevitably the slower tracks that capture the imagination of the listener. Notwithstanding the fact that they’ve just searched for, and purchased a rock album!
“Ghosts In My Mind” is no exception to this fact. From the opening acoustic guitar and vocal combo bars, R.J. delivers his soulful voice with apparent ease over an untoxicated musical backing, sprinkled with delicate guitar interludes. If you took 10cc and mixed it in with America, you’d probably get the sound I’m talking about. Superlative.
After “Mocha Jaydene” up pops “Comin On Home”. Quite easily one of my favourite tracks on the album and so much in the vocal tradition of John Fogerty formerly of Creedance Clearwater Revival.
I know I keep making musical comparisons with the past, but when you play this genre it’s almost unavoidable. I mean who do you compare Kanye West to?
In M.J.’s case, he has to deal with monuments of rock music. The weird thing is Planetrary Nights pull it all off so beautifully, without even getting their feathers ruffled.
The man’s a natural.
“Solstice Tide”, “Rollin On Again”, “Evangeline” and “Together” keep the rock rhythms vigorously flowing, with the band staying tight and tenacious.
The slow rocker, “Breathe In the Night”, takes centre stage on “Today Ain’t Too Late”. Hard hitting, well-arranged and befittingly sung by R.J. McSweeney with his emotonal and expressive rock-steady voice. This is authentic top-drawer songwriting.
and I didn’t mention ‘The Boss’ Springsteen or Jackson Browne even once!
Don’t let this album slip you by. If you’re into Americana, Alt-Country or Indie, put your money where your mouth is.
“Today Ain’t Too Late” – The Planetary Nights.
Grab your copy of the album here: “Today Ain’t Too Late”