Past / Present
Derek Savage Reviewing the Arts 3/7/07 Review of D.B. Morris' "Past/Present" It isn't rare to see an artist of any kind change medias mid life and produce something that wouldn't be considered the norm. The same can be held true for D.B. Morris and his debut rock album "Past/Present". David Burton Morris, the name he directs under, is an acclaimed film director and writer of both television and film and has taken the transition from one medium to another to a whole new level with the creation of "Past/Present". D.B. Morris was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but spent most of his adolescent and teenage years in the streets of St. Paul, where his gritty and grimy teenage years influenced his artistic vision and drive in both music and cinema. Winning multiple awards for his cinematic vision behind the scenes, he shot up through the ranks of Hollywood's "Who's Who", his television work garnering twenty five nominations, including seven Emmy nominations and a DGA award. His first commercially released film, 'Purple Haze', won the Grand Prize at Sundance. His follow up, 'Patti Rocks', won the Coup De Couer at the Deauville International Film Festival, Critic's Week at the Venice International Film Festival, and was also nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards. D.B.'s recording style is unconventional in the sense that he didn't use a proper recording studio. Transforming his carriage house/ office into a Mac based makeshift studio, he created an album that not only speaks his language, but also speaks to himself and the people that know him. His low, smoke filled voice just oozes through the speakers and hits you square in the nuts, and follows with an uppercut to the jaw when his screaming electric or acoustic guitar fills the air. With help from a few friends, Charlie Pett, Mike Nayman, Andrew DeLisi and Jim Marazzo, and with the influences of Richard Thompson, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen, he transforms your audio system to a temple of rock worship where you would be a fool to disobey the gods. In a song like "Pole Driver" which, at it's core, is about forcing one's self on a woman for the simple act of getting off, makes you feel evil and exhilarated in the same moment. His "Bad Grammar" and "Made in the USA" tracks speak to both the old and new rhythms of life. His fast, almost rap like lyrics cruise over the track in a somewhat comical way, but the message is clear "They're all talkin' bad grammar; Thinkin' that'll set 'em free; But they're all wasting their breath; As far as I can see." With such angry lyrics, it's a surprise to find ballads such as "Busted and Broken" and "Don't You Cry" on the same album. This holds true to the title of the album "Past/Present". He has both sides of his life in a balance. This evil, twisted, and angry side that meshes and blends beautifully with the sweet and simplistic side of the man. Both sides of the album make it attractive to either sex. Though not many women can relate to "Pole Driver", it can be assumed that at times we all have wanted to force ourselves onto anything just to feel some sort of exhilaration. Then there are songs like "Endangered Species" and "Billy in the Lowlands". With upbeat tracks and smooth, strong lyrics, he creates a comfortable setting for you to view your own execution. As it is throughout the album, the lyrics are for the most place dark and violent, and the guitar riffs and beats challenge you to take as much noise violence as you can before submitting. He's powerful and dangerous, and proves it in his tracks such as "Big Dog" and "West Coast". Here, he explores and exploits the magic and funk a harmonica can bring to any song. And with a surgeon's precision, he dissects his way into your top play list with instant gratification and admiration. His ear for the perfect rock tone is on display, and one would be a fool to deny him entry into your aural senses. If you're looking for a love-induced album about the wonders of the world and a perfect life of boy meeting girl, look elsewhere. If you're looking for an album that will make you beg for mercy, yet want more, this is the album for your tastes. The instrumental and vocal balance is powerful throughout, and brings to the table a new and distinct style of rock and roll. So put on your nut cup and make sure your mom's not listening, because this album is guaranteed to rock your socks off. EMAIL FROM FELLOW MUSICIANS BELOW Hi again, I was listening to Past and Present again today. And again I really enjoyed it. Busted and Broken and Hurt so Bad are both so moving. They are really honest and gut turning songs. A whole record of that would be just too much too take, in that they are so strong they just leave you wanting something a little 'lighter', so that's where the other songs balance it out well. I really enjoyed West Coast, Billy in the Lowlands, Don't you Cry, and Endangered Species. I hope you're proud of that record. If I had made that record, I'd be proud of it. Lou Hi David, Thanks so much for sending us your record. My measure of whether I really like a record is if I can put it on when I'm cleaning the house or doing some other thing around the house, and it radiates a good energy into the place and makes me feel good. And your record definitely does that. Some people have started off trying to sing like Dylan or Jagger, and have come up with their own unique sound (the list is endless, but Mark Knopfler, Jim McGuinn, Tom Petty, T Bone Burnett come to mind right away); and that is what you have done. Of course, the Dylan and Jagger influences are all over the place, but there is definitely a David Burton Morris vibe that comes through, and that is another measure of good music. You should be proud of it; I don't think of it as a vanity project (especially because I've spent a lot of time doing similar recording), I think of it as a different art form. Just because you probably won't make any money from it doesn't mean it isn't art. And you have clearly put a lot of your soul into it, because it radiates a good 'soul' feeling, if you know what I mean. I like a bunch of the songs; I'm more partial to the slower ones, because you let your vulnerable side show more on those songs, and that side of you is very endearing and honest. BILLY IN THE LOWLANDS is a lot of fun; sort of like your version of Queen's long song, or Stairway to Heaven: D.B.'s rock opera; it moves around a lot in an interesting way. I like WHAT'CHA GONNA DO for the same reason; lots of interesting musical stuff. POLE DRIVER has a very nice groove and is fun to bop along to. DON'T YOU CRY is like a really good Stones ballad. I like all of those. But there are two that really grab me: HURT SO BAD and my favorite BUSTED AND BROKEN; they both have a ton of feeling (love that line about a 'ton of emotional debt' in Hurt so bad); they also both remind me, in feel, of one of my favorite records of all time, which is the Pat Garrett Dylan album; that record has a wonderful relaxed and deep feel to it, and those two songs have a very similar emotional feel. To me, HURT SO BAD and BUSTED AND BROKEN are as good as anything Dylan has done in recent years, and that is praise indeed, because I like all of Dylan's last three records; I suppose in feel they fit most with the TIME OUT OF MIND atmosphere, because they have that sweet nostalgic feel to them. Anyway, I really like both of those songs. Could you e-mail me the lyrics to BUSTED AND BROKEN? I can't quite get all the words (my rock and roll hearing), and I'd love to sing that song myself. You have captured the DB Morris feel very well on this record, I think, and that is really cool. I hope you feel good about it. Have a great Christmas, and say hi to Victoria for me. Peace, Lou' Jeez, man, I almost tossed that thing. I'm in the media btz so I get a lot of crap and I was, who is DB Morris? Then I figured it out and listened to it right away. David, I have to tell you, it gave me such heart. I love the thought of you up there in Minnesota still singing and writing and recording and just generally making art. And I love the pissed off grungy dirty rock sound of so much of it - and the thought that your angry fire is completely undimmed. Like I said, it gave me heart. Especially in these grim f***ing times with a government that makes Nixon look like Gandhi. But the song that knocked me out was the sixth one (l think), the ballad where you talk about saying everything's ok and you hope your friends will see through it and 'christ, they don't even ask.' That sent a shiver up my spine - and sends it up again as I type this. I immediately came home and tried to play it for Kathy and her friends who were at the house, but they were talking and I took it off because I wanted them to really listen. Then we had a party and the thing got lost in a stack and l just found it again. So it's on my desk, and I'm going to listen to it some more, but I wanted to write to you now when I have the chance - because the way my life goes, l'll be deep in some deadline soon and I might forget. Anyway, thanks, David. You and Vicky are the only people from 'Hollywood' that I ever really became friends with, and hearing this makes me think that it made sense then and makes sense now. Love to Vicky too. And rock on! -john ps. I'm still playing too, still getting better, and my band is due here in about an hour.