The Road Back #2: Van Ghost

The Road Back to Music Journalism #2: Van Ghost at the Newburyport Riverfront Music Festival

Discovering a New Band at a Festival

Summer 2012

Van Ghost

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Backstory

In the summer of 2012, my wife and I ventured to Newburyport, Massachusetts to check out the Newburyport Riverfront Music Festival. The large park in the middle of Newburyport was filled with attendees, and we found a spot to relax and check out the music. I hadn’t been to many live shows in the years since I quit publishing Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter, but this seemed like a great setting to enjoy a day in the sun and hear some music.

Why This Was a Step on the Road Back

Other than Milenita’s CD, I still hadn’t been inspired to seek out new music. As a result, I hadn’t discovered a new band from a live show in probably a decade. Well, Van Ghost‘s set was so impressive, I sought out their music online. The band was sharing its The Effect EP as a free download. So I downloaded it and enjoyed it for months. This EP included 5 of the 10 songs on the band’s The Domino Effect album. Listening to The Effect EP did spark my interest in discovering new music again. It didn’t exactly spark a surge in my pursuit of new bands, exactly, but I did begin to update my collection with recent CDs from my old favorites.  (And, by the way, Night Ranger’s Somewhere in California and Foreigner’s Can’t Slow Down are amazing CDs, every bit as good as the albums those bands produced in their heydays.) Again, a small step on my road back to music journalism. Eventually, I did purchase the full CD version of The Domino Effect.

The Concert and CD Review of Van Ghost: The Domino Effect

The concert itself was so long ago, I remember very little of it, but I do recall we had bad seats — we could barely see the bands. And I had checked out some of the music in advance. I expected a different band to be more impressive. However, from the opening song of Van Ghost’s set, I knew I was hearing something special. The powerful, straightforward, soft-to-mid-tempo arena-caliber rock ‘n roll, with soaring male and female vocals, soft but insistent guitarwork, and tight musicianship were apparent live and are what makes The Domino Effect such a special album. Several of the memorable songs were included on the EP, as well.

The album opens with the title track, “Domino Effect,” in which soaring vocals are tied together with nimble guitar lines. That’s your introduction to a winning formula. And if that song wasn’t convincing enough, it’s followed by “Cage,” a song that again showcases Michael Berg’s amazing, identifiable, old-school-rock vocals. “Easy on Me” is next, showcasing the interplay between Berg’s vocals and Jennifer Hartswick’s on a powerful mid-tempo number that deftly utilizes what sounds like a rock organ. Dude, this is modern-day, old-school, screaming-crowd-inducing, classic arena rock. Indeed, track four, “Drowning,” is the sort of power ballad that would cause lighters to be held aloft. “Modern Day Love Affair,” another favorite, is more musically playful. “Burden” is classic soft rock radio material. “Telling Stories” is a ballad with a little twang, while earlier tracks “Decisions” and “White Lies” are more straightforward catchy ballads. And the soaring, potentially arena-pleasing album-closer “Return to Innocence” hints at the bands ample funky rock chops.

The Domino Effect, in its entirely, is the complete package. It’s a rock and roll album that harkens back to the days of great albums, the sort that ebbs and flows while still producing great individual songs. If you’re looking for a blend of soft rock, arena rock, and progressive rock with strong musicianship and blow-you-away vocals, this CD belongs in your collection.