Family music entertainer G’Raph (a.k.a. Raphael Groten) is scheduled to release his debut album, Happily Ever Now Friday. The independent,13-song record is unquestionably among the most unique entries so far among this year’s field of new family music albums. That is due in large part to its featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s musical content make for their own share of interest and intrigue. They will be addressed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation. All things considered, they make the album worth hearing at least once.
Raphael Groten’s debut family music album is an interesting start to his career within the noted genre. Its interest comes in large part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements are important because of their variety and their general presentation. From one song to the next, audiences get something different in terms of sound and stylistic approach. At the same time, each composition is so subtle. This actually becomes a little bit problematic for the record’s presentation. ‘I Love You, Baby’ for instance, conjures thoughts of works from famed composer/singer Randy Newman. That is due to the use of the Dixieland style instrumentation and approach taken here and Groten’s own subtle, playful vocal delivery. There is a certain sense about the whole that immediately brings about such comparison. ‘The Minor ABCs’ changes things up quite dramatically. Instead of the familiar, happy ABC song that everyone learns and knows from childhood, this rendition puts the song in a semi-flamenco style presentation and in minor chord fashion at that. The decidedly percussive nature of the delivery puts the song into quite new terrirory. On yet another note, ‘Baby Blues’ offers up a song about…well…the trials of being a baby against the musical backdrop of a 12-bar blues arrangement. That blues arrangement works, and even though it clearly won’t connect with babies, it will put a smile on many listeners’ faces. The very brief Sesame Street lick that opens the song adds even more interest to the arrangement and shows that much more the variety in the record’s musical arrangements. Taking these arrangements and all of the others featured throughout the album into account, the result is a clear picture of the diversity in the album’s musical arrangements. That diversity is reason enough for audiences to hear this record at least once.
Now for all the good that the diversity in the arrangements does for the album’s presentation, there is one issue that arises in listening to each composition. That issue is that so much of the record’s musical content is overly relaxed. Not every song is like that, but by and large, much of the record’s musical content does follow that approach. The result is that it causes the album to drag a bit, feeling longer than its 52 minute run time. As a matter of fact, 52 minutes is in itself an exceptionally long run time for a family music album. Most albums within the genre run between 30 and 40 minutes in length with either multiple short songs or a handful of three- to four minute songs that are themselves energetic enough to keep listeners engaged and entertained. To that end, the overarching approach that Groten has taken to the arrangements does detract from the presentation. It is not enough to make the album a failure, but at the same time cannot be ignored.
Getting back on a more positive topic, the lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical arrangements adds to the presentation’s appeal. ‘Hands in the Water,’ which opens the record, and ‘Don’t Pick Your Nose’ each present themes of personal hygiene. Whether that was a reaction to everything going on in the world is anyone’s guess. Regardless, getting an early start to teaching good personal hygiene is always a good thing. ‘Monster Truck,’ which serves as part of the album’s midpoint along with ‘The Minor ABCs,’ is about just that. It is a fun little song about a monster truck that in this case actually is a monster and a truck in one. It is a silly song that will leave any young listener laughing. As a matter of fact, it might even be a good choice for any Halloween party for said listeners since it is so family and kid friendly while also bringing up a “monster” theme. On yet another note, ‘I’m Not Perfect’ takes on the all too familiar theme of self confidence and acceptance. It is a theme that is always needed and welcome for young audiences. It is just another example of the diversity in the album’s lyrical content. Between this theme, the others noted here, and the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the whole makes fully clear why the record’s lyrical themes are so important to the album’s presentation. They offer just as much variety as the record’s musical arrangements. The result is that it makes the album that much more engaging and entertaining.
Taking into account the impact of the diversity in the album’s lyrical and musical content, there is obviously much for audiences to appreciate in Happily Ever Now. For all of the positive that this collective content makes for the album, it is only a part of what makes the album work. The production thereof rounds out the album’s most important elements. As noted already, much of the album’s arrangements are very subtle and laid back in their presentations. That extra relaxed approach that Groten took to so much of this record meant that close attention had to be paid to every single arrangement. That is so that the few items presented in each arrangement was balanced with its counterparts. Luckily, such attention was paid to each song. As a result, the arrangements each do their best to keep listeners engaged and entertained even as subdued as they remain. Keeping that impact in mind along with the impact of the record’s overall content, the whole makes the album a work that will make audiences mostly happy.
Raphael Groten’s (a.k.a. G’Raph) debut family music album, Happily Ever Now, is an interesting first offering from the veteran musician/singer/songwriter. It is a mostly successful effort due in part to its musical arrangements. The arrangements stand out because of their diversity. They take listeners on journeys into a variety of different musical genres from one to the next. That in itself will keep listeners engaged and entertained. At the same time, the approach that Groten took to the songs is somewhat problematic. The problem arises in the stylistic approach that he took to the arrangements. By and large, the arrangements are overly relaxed. This is not enough to make the record a failure, but it will definitely hinder the ability of the arrangements to fully engage and entertain listeners. It shows that even with relaxation, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Moving on, the lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements are also diverse. They cover a wide range of topics, giving audiences even more reason to give the album a chance. The record’s production brings everything together and gives the record a mostly positive general effect. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make Happily Ever Now a work that will leave audiences mostly happy.
Happily Ever Now is scheduled for release Friday. More information on the album is available along with all of Groten’s latest news at https://www.raphaelgroten.com.
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