CD Review: Hirsh Gardner's "My Brain Needs A Holiday"

Released in August, on the GB Music Label,

BOSTON - Hirsh Gardner is widely known (with good reason) as the thunderous drummer of the melodic-rocking, AOR band New England, who released three dynamic albums from 1978-1983, which included the Top 40-hit “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya.” However, the scope of Gardner’s talents goes far beyond drumming. He is also a strong vocalist and song writer, a guitar player, and is also a renowned producer.


Review by Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Hirsh Gardner

Add solo artist to the list as well, as Gardner released his second effort in August, titled My Brain Needs A Holiday. Recorded in his Boston recording studio (as well as his home studio), the new CD features eight original tracks, penned by Gardner, as well as two carefully chosen cover tracks. The songs create a lot of different vibes, some that are similar to that of New England, and some that are not. You hear that classic, melodic rock style, but also a variety of crunching guitars, catchy hooks, instrumental loops and a couple of ballads mixed in.

My Brain Needs a Holiday took about a year to create and the project was almost completely produced by Gardner, although he did recruit the expertise of his engineering friend, Oph Kiltah, for added guidance. Hirsh also brought in some talented friends to participate in the recording, including New England band-mate, Jimmy Waldo on keyboards, guitarists Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N Roses, Lita Ford, Sons of Apollo), Jon Butcher (Jon Butcher Axsis, Barefoot Servants), Joe Feloni, J. Rushwell, Joel Burns, Richie Ranno (Starz), Jodee Frawlee (LoveSexy, The Midnight Crew), Bruce Bennett, and bassists Steve Baxter (Shyboy) and Joe Mudarri. Gary Smith also contributes on keyboards.

The opening “Lost In The Darkness Tonight,” is certainly a melodic rocker in the vein of New England, all full of pristine vocal harmonies, rollicking bass lines from Mudarri, punctuating drum fills, and rippin’ guitar solos from Feloni… a seemingly perfect opener. Then, the title track, has this modern day, tongue-in-cheek-Slade-anthem feel to it! (if you can follow that one) In other words, it’s “so much fun!”

“Get it Back” is a flat-out, bad-ass rocker from start to finish, complete with cool vocal tone and some killer guitar work, with funky-ass riffs and smokin’ solos throughout from Bumblefoot and the lovely Miss Frawlee. The following ballad, “Love Is,” is simply incredible. Featuring a sort of rockin’, doo-wop feel - perhaps in the vein of 80s-Billy Joel - Hirsh’s lead voice (almost sounding like a much cooler, Jon Bon Jovi) over the top of this amazing, vocal harmonizing is just stellar! Then, mid-song, a blistering Jon Butcher guitar solo bridges the song into a fantastic explosion of joy... two different vibes, within a seamless transition. It’s just powerful and brilliant!

Next up, are a couple of slinky, melodic rockers in “Do Me Do Me” and “If You Need t’Talk,” complete with more killer guitar solos from Feloni and Richie Ranno, followed by the heart-felt ballad “Diamond Moon,” featuring beautiful piano strains from Waldo and a soaring guitar solo from Frawlee. Then, the vibe shifts yet again, for the innovative, stripped-down “Shadows,” featuring another cool guitar solo, this time from J. Rushwell.

The final two tracks on the CD are covers. One very well-known song in Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” and the other, not so much... a hidden gem called “Sister Jane,” by the French prog-band, Tai Phong. The latter track, a dreamy ballad, recommended to Gardner by his former A&R man from Marquis Avalon Records in Japan. However, it was after re-working the track into a heavier rock arrangement, that it felt more like a “Hirsh song.” Feloni worked out the guitar parts, and this obscure song has been transformed into a heavier, prog-rock vibe.

In conclusion, you simply won’t find any bad or gloomy vibes here. My Brain Needs A Holiday is uplifting, full of catchy melodic rock songs, bright production values and chock-full of innovative and fiery guitar solos throughout. Gardner certainly diversifies in his approach to creating a well-rounded collection of classic and modern rock sounds that his long-time fans, and hopefully some new ones, will surely enjoy. The CD is released worldwide on the GB Music label in the U.S., Canada and Japan, and on Escape-Music in Europe. It is also available on Gardner’s website at www.hirshgardner.com, as well as all the popular download sites such as CD Baby and iTunes.