Grace Potter – Midnight (Rating 3 out of 5)

grace2We should have seen this coming, all of the signs were there. Not unlike most volatile relationships, there were signs.  All of our friends could see it, they tried to tell us, but, like many who find themselves in a good lovin’ gone bad situation like this one, warning signs were ignored.

It was a good run. The first self titled album with her band The Nocturnals, was great, and the video for “Paris (Ooh La La)” cemented Grace Potter’s place in “The Rock Chick Hall of Fame.” The bands cover of The Airplane’s “White Rabbit” was stunning, and videos of Potter slinking around the stage with a Flying V between her legs, playing beside some of the coolest musical acts in the world along with her cracker jack band that included the equally if not more hotgrace3 Catherine Popper on bass, and guitar whiz Benny Yurco carrying most of the six string load in fine fashion, were all pretty terrific.  The photo of Grace baring all, wrapped in the American flag, and the video with her all decked out in her finest and tightest pair of Daisy Dukes giving lessons on how to make a grilled cheese sandwich only served to cement her bad-ass reputation and earned her entry into the Falcon’s Nest Rock Chick Hall of Fame.

Until it was over. The slow descent into mediocrity began with Catherine Popper’s exit from the band. Whether it was cat-fight jealousy, creative differences, or the fact that Cat simply wanted to find her own place in the sun, you never know, but like Laverne needed Shirley, and Thelma wasn’t sexy without Louise, Grace Potter needed Catherine Popper. Together they were the sexiest rock duo this side of back in the day Heart or Fleetwood Mac’s McVie and Nicks. But alas, it was not meant to be. The first post Popper album with the remaining Nocturnals The Lion The Beast The Beat was several beats below average, and was a sure sign that no shades were going to be needed for the not so bright future of this band.  The Kenny Chesney lame-fest collaboration on “You and Tequila”  was only the banana peel on the walk of shame that included changing her hair style to become more “hip” looking to appeal to the younger set, and the firing of her entire band.

And then came Midnight, the first album with Grace Potter as a solo artist, and the transformation was complete. With a Rod Stewart worthy sell-out effort that should appeal to no one, she may have lost her Rock loving Fans while at the same time failing to appeal to the very market that she trying to reach with her new image and sound.

grace4The template here is some sort of other worldly love child of Cher and Lady Gaga meets Taylor Swift by way of a Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears daisy chain. The opener “Hot Touch” is something your teenage daughters would be bopping to in the back seat while you are driving them to school in your mini van, and is followed by “Alive Tonight” some sort of Anthem that sounds like it would be a pretty good crowd-pleaser, but is a bit too synthesizer heavy for its own good, and sounds like it could have been on the latest Miley Cyrus record.

It is not until 4 songs in with “Empty Heart” that there is any sign that this record can be saved, an acoustic guitar based song with a good strong vocal that goes along at a nice tempo until some sort “Up With People”  too over the top gospel chorus kicks in that is pretty much unnecessary, and takes the tune from pretty good back down to listenable in a pretty big hurry.  “The Miner” is a wee little ballad that is nice tempo changer, but still tries to outsmart itself a bit with a contemporary feel, and “Delirious” is a disco song.  Yes, no need to adjust your ears. It is a disco song. “Let you Go” is a fine slower tempo love song that deserves better friends.

The song “Look What We’ve Become” is another tune that seems to be tailor-made for the live show, and would have been a very appropriate album title actually, and “Nobody’s Born with a Broken Heart” is the best song on the album, but suffers like a lot of the songs here from too pumped up production going on behind the scenes. With the levers dialed down a bit, the strong vocals and dynamic personality would have had a better platform.

This is one of those records that you will pretty much hate after the first listen, need to check it out more after the second, and then will leave you pretty much unsatisfied with further trips to the well.  The biggest fail with Midnight is that it tries to be all things to all people, and as a result seems to leave a lot on the cutting room floor.  Somewhere, behind the image makers, and underneath the glossy pimped out sheen that crops up in way too many places that we are presented with here, there is a seriously talented artist that deserves better than the less than stellar reception that Grace Potter is likely to receive with her first effort out on her own.

— Bernie Sparrow —