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Dave Nachmanoff | Step Up

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Step Up

by Dave Nachmanoff

The ninth album from Dave Nachmanoff - his first solo release in five years, featuring top-flight musicians and singers; produced by Ronan Chris Murphy.
Genre: Rock: Adult Contemporary
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Fragile Thing
3:38 $0.99
2. Sheila Won't be Coming Home
3:22 $0.99
3. In Sickness and In Health
5:09 $0.99
4. Rain King
5:26 $0.99
5. When You Were Mine
3:13 $0.99
6. Descartes in Amsterdam
4:05 $0.99
7. Conservation Law: Love Keeps Going On
3:04 $0.99
8. Not What I Expected
4:20 $0.99
9. Eternal Star
3:12 $0.99
10. Changing
4:30 $0.99
11. City of Angels
3:46 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Dave Nachmanoff returns with his first album in five years, with "Step Up", produced by Ronan Chris Murphy, featuring musicians Bob Malone (currently playing keyboards for John Fogerty), Ian Sheridan (former bassist for Jason Mraz) and Victor Bisetti (former drummer for Los Lobos), and vocalists Al Stewart, Rosemary Butler, John Wicks, and Liz Bligan.

“Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted.”
— Napoleon Bonaparte, by way of Al Stewart

On the face of it, one might not think that a 19th century general (and occasional emperor) would have much advice to offer to a 21st century singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. And there you would be wrong. Because after nearly two decades of making records, and a not inconsiderable amount of boots-on-the-ground reconnaissance in front of audiences all around the world, Dave Nachmanoff decided to make some changes, not only to what he recorded, but the very way he decided to approach the recording process. The result is Step Up.

Not to stretch the military campaign theme too far, Nachmanoff’s first order of business was to find a general — known in the record industry as producers — and he gained a capable ally in Ronan Chris Murphy. On the face of it, Murphy seems an unlikely fit; after all, he cut his teeth in the Washington DC punk scene and has worked with the likes of King Crimson and former Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse, all areas fairly removed from Nachmanoff’s wheelhouse. But after some pre-production discussion about the shape and sound of the new album, the two realized they were on the same page, musically speaking . . . if perhaps coming at it from different directions. With a limited budget and a sensibility that both musician and producer wanted to capture the energy that Dave brings to the stage live, Murphy advised his new collaborator that, “It’s gonna have some bumps and bruises, but that’s okay.”

Bumps and bruises might be overstating it; Step Up simply sounds more like an album that hasn’t been so overdubbed, overworked, and overpolished that all its edges have been sanded away. It aims for the sweet spot that embraces all of the elements in the so-called “AAA” sound: an Adult Album Alternative. That’s part of what makes a simple description elusive, as it reimagines and recombines elements from all of Nachmanoff’s influences, from Fountains of Wayne to Jellyfish to Al Stewart to the Records. Speaking of the latter two, both the Records’ lead vocalist, John Wicks, and longtime Nachmanoff cohort Stewart appear on the new album.

“John was friends with some of my friends on Facebook,” says Dave, “so I reached out to him. I was totally blown away by his vocals.” Wicks appears on three of the album’s tracks, bringing that shimmering pop sensibility he so energetically displayed on the Records’ “Starry Eyes” at the dawn of the New Wave era.

Al Stewart turns in a co-lead vocal on the album’s second track, “Sheila Won’t Be Coming Home,” a song that he co-wrote with Nachmanoff and which has become a regular part of Stewart’s recent tour set.

As much as Dave has been looking forward, he wasn’t afraid to reach back into his past for a few songs, such as “Descartes In Amsterdam” and “Not What I Expected,” originally recorded earlier in his career. Both studio technology and Nachmanoff’s vocal and instrumental prowess have taken multiple steps forward in the intervening years, and the reworked “covers” fit in seamlessly with the album’s more recently-written repertoire.

In fact, there’s only one track on the whole album that Dave didn’t write (or co-write), and that’s his take on Counting Crows’ “Rain King.” While Nachmanoff’s version is slightly less insistently propulsive, it retains the original’s edge, and producer Murphy, in Dave’s words, “came up with a great groove.”

That might, after all, be a pretty decent way to describe Step Up: a great groove. Or, as Dave puts it, “There are CDs and there are records. This is my first real record.”

With Step Up as a calling card, Nachmanoff may well find audiences stepping up themselves to do a little reconnaissance of their own.



to write a review

Sally Brook

Dave's Best
Dave Nachmanoff’s new CD, Step Up, is aptly named as he has indeed stepped up to the challenge of creating a new CD that is even better than his past CDs. As usual, Dave has included songs with intelligent lyrics and wonderful melodies, that range from folk oriented to a more rock/pop sound. But this CD seems richer than some of his earlier albums, with deeper, fuller arrangements. Producer Ronan Chris Murphy (Producer for King Crimson, and a variety of other musicians ranging from folk, jazz, progressive, and pop) has done a great job of bringing deeper layers to Dave’s sound.
While all of the songs on this album are notable, there are a few which really stand out. One of best is “Descartes in Amsterdam”, a song Dave first recorded in the late 1990s. The plaintive quality of the song is still present, but this version is much deeper, with layers of melody and instrumentation. In places the music and Dave’s voice add an almost eerie quality that was not present in the original version.

“Sheila Won’t Be Coming Home” is an irrepressible song with a bouncy pop/rock feel. Al Stewart adds his distinctive voice to this song, and a bit of turn-around fun, as Dave usually tours with Al as Al’s guitarist and back-up singer. Sheila is an instant earworm ( song that burrows itself into your brain and won’t leave) that you’ll find yourself singing over and over.

“Eternal Star” and “When You Were Mine” are also bouncy uptempo songs with earworm qualities.

On a deeper side, “In Sickness and In Health” is about a marriage where the singer has a debilitating illness and wonders if the other person is patiently waiting to be set free from a life of giving care. “Changing” is about a broken relationship, where one person feels as if he’s going backwards, from a butterfly to a cocoon. Both songs reach into a deeply emotional place and make you listen over and over.

Finally, “City of Angels” is a real gem. This is the song that I played over and over and over when I first got the CD. It’s that song that just reaches out and grabs you. It has it all. There is a bit of Harry Chapin sound to it, but it’s Dave through and through. The instrumentation which includes an accordion, harmonica, guitars, piano and mandolin are just perfect, and the backup vocals come in just right. I can especially hear Liz Bligan’s voice in the background. “Descartes” and “Sheila” are favorites, but for me, “City” is the WOW song. That song which surprises and makes you sit up and listen, and then listen again. And again!

mark montopoli

I need one?
Met dave @ Al Stewart show @ Jonathan's in Maine purchased album. Like most really good albums you need to give them a chance and listen. Dave GOOD JOB GREAT TO MEET YOU & look forward to next project. I have become sick i have not been able to make recent shoes. LOVE TO SEE YOU BOTH ADAIN

Glen Colbert

Highly Recommend – Dave Nachmanoff’s new CD
Dave Nachmanoff, long time sidekick to Al Stewart, but an incredible musician in his own right has just released a new CD titled “Step Up.” I typically enjoy listening to Dave’s work because he is such a talented guitarist. He is a master of intricate and complicated guitar art. With this CD Dave really does “Step Up” to crafting music that is focused on the lyrics and the composition more than on his intricate guitar work.

The music is a wonderful blend of the 90′s soft rock sounds and the newer alternative rock. You can clearly hear the influence of Al Stewart in the sound, but with a much more this-century presence. This CD should be enjoyed by a very broad audience. If you are looking for some new tunes this is the one to check out.

Patrick Neals

Dave has stepped up again!
Aptly named, Dave provides us with another fine collection of songs on "Step Up". This is a beautifully produced album, and features a team of excellent musicians that Dave pulled together. This album also has two of Dave's previously released songs that have been completely rearranged; "Descartes in Amsterdam" and "Not What I Expected".

Joe C.

Dave Nachmanoff's Best
Dave Nachmanoff's new CD, "Step Up", is his first solo release since "Time Before The Fall" in 2006. Was it worth the wait? I'll have to answer with a resounding "yes". In fact, it's his best yet. The disc opens with a welcoming tune called "Fragile Thing" that brings The Eagles to mind. Nachmanoff's growth as a songwriter is apparent on works such as "Changing" and "City of Angels" in which the listener can identify with the notion of life situations changing over time, recognizing it with honesty, and having the courage to try something new. For me though, the most powerful song is "In Sickness and In Health", a poignant story about a caregiver and a terminally ill partner.

There is also the clever (and quite catchy) "Sheila Won't Be Coming Home", complete with an appearance by guest vocalist Al Stewart. I promise that hearing it once will result in happily thinking of its chorus for the rest of the day. On this release, Nachmanoff also re-recorded a couple of songs from 1997's "Candy Shower", "Descartes in Amsterdam" and "Not What I Expected". Both were treated beautifully: "Descartes" was slowed down a touch with additional percussion and violin to add to the mystique. "Not What I Expected" features crisp, blistering acoustic guitar parts.

For "Step Up", Nachmanoff surrounded himself with some of the best musicians around. Produced by the studio savvy Ronan Chris Murphy, the lineup includes Bob Malone (John Fogerty) playing keyboards, Ian Sheridan (Jason Mraz) on bass, and Victor Bisetti (Los Lobos) playing drums and percussion. In addition to Stewart, backup vocalists are
Rosemary Butler (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon), John Wicks (of The Records) and Liz Bligan.

Whether you have nine Dave Nachmanoff discs or "Step Up" would be your first, it earns a place in your music library.


Just What I Expected
Although it contains a track called “This is Not What I Expected” (A great song among many greats in this collection), This album is just what I expected from Dave’s latest and most painstaking production. It is superbly constructed of diverse and evocative tunes with thoughtful, sensitive, insightful lyrics--using back-up musicians and vocalists of the first caliber. This is an album that you will listen to again and again, and I predict that you will discover a new favorite track each time through. The guest appearance of Al Stewart on their co-written song Shelia Won’t be Coming Home is an added plus.

Brian Chaffin

Listen Up!
I remember reading, somewhere, how Joni Mitchell's favourite version of her classic 'Both Sides Now' was a performance by an elderly chanteuse; it is a song that strangely blends innocence and experience, and while it was written by a 23 year old, Mitchell felt that the disillusionment and growth explored in the lyrics could only be perfectly conveyed by an artist with a lifetime behind her. Mitchell was inspired to compose the song by reading Saul Bellow's _Henderson the Rain King_, a Bildungsroman with an ironically middle-aged protagonist in a belated quest for meaning in his life. It is surely not an accident that Dave Nachmanoff chose to cover another anthem inspired by (and titled after) 'The Rain King' as the fourth track on his new album, _Step Up_, because the album is itself an introspective odyssey that tracks the thread of identity backwards and forwards through the labyrinth of time. But while the subject matter may be deep and complex, Nachmanoff displays a musical and narrative finesse that glosses over the philosophy with pure enjoyment and never lets the powerful emotions become jarring or incongruent.

_Step Up_ is an album whose lyrics are to be read through newly-acquired reading glasses and eyes bleared by decades of real life. The characters and narrative personae are disillusioned, if not world-weary, and look back on their former selves with yearning, regret, disappointment, pity and sometimes cynical self-criticism, but the progression is finally towards enlightenment and, in the end, each listener is left to determine for himself whether the apotheosis of the final lines of the last track is an awakening or merely a drunken flight from darkness. The disc starts with the tentative optimism of 'Fragile Thing,' where a battered heroine nurtures hope in a new romance, but the free indirect discourse of the ostensibly third person lyrics interposes an aura of doubt between her and the desired happy ending. In 'Sheila Won't be Comin' Home,' the title character is turning her back on a life that, 'like a lover' has 'never quite arrived,' and the plaintive 'In Sickness and in Health' confronts the intimations of mortality that come with middle age, in the context of a successful relationship, reminding us that even fulfilled romance must ultimately succumb to fate. Even when Nachmanoff confronts doubts about the very fate of planet Earth with uncharacteristic scepticism in 'Eternal Star,' the message is in the cognitive dissonance between the depressing vision and the transcendental brightness of the music.

In 'When You Were Mine,' the speaker literally takes a walk down memory lane, recalling a former love affair from the perspective of an early morning stroll through environs he and his paramour knew previously from late, celebratory nights. In this song, Nachmanoff cleverly keeps the descriptive verses in present tense to convey the identity of the past and present environment, while reflecting, in the more temporally aware chorus, on the internal shift that the end of the relationship has brought about to render the change in the speaker's worldview. The equally upbeat 'Conservation Law' is a tongue-in-cheek parody of the 'love at first sight' tradition that humorously revisits the _Phaedrus_ of Plato which had much earlier inspired Nachmanoff's 'All Too Human.’ Its reductio ad absurdam gently lampoons the Sokratic notion that what we fall in love with is those aspects of a person that remind us of the gods we followed in a former existence.

One of the most intriguing mechanisms _Step Up_ uses in its dialectic of the self is the inclusion of four songs by a much younger Nachmanoff, each addressing a shaded side of personal change and discovery. Of these, the new version of 'Descartes in Amsterdam' stands astride the apex of the album like a colossus. Ronan Chris Murphy's spare, eerie production makes a wild, desolation for Dave's haunted vocal to wander in like a landscape by Dali or El Greco, stalked by the primitive-sounding percussion. While the Cartesian 'ego' strives to decontextualise itself in 'Amsterdam,' 'Not What I Expected' delves further still into primordial consciousness invoking the idea of the self and The Other as one, momentarily differentiated in a metaphysical game of one-player hide-and-seek. Tropes and figures careen into one another with seeming abandon until all existence is finally typified in the eternal anticipation of the line 'listening in the silence, counting seconds 'til the thunder.' ‘Changing’ is ostensibly about the widening chasm in a relationship, but at a deeper level describes the self-alienation that results from inevitable metamorphoses in our Heraklitean universe. ‘City of Angels’ tracks a young artist’s journey from wide-eyed hope to disappointment to exaltation of the spirit (though it is left unclear whether the spirit is inspirational or intoxicating).

The inclusion of these four early works commenting on disillusionment and mutability on a fresh album by a more mature artist gives an intriguing multi-dimensional perspective to _Step Up_. Changes to the lyrics are negligible from the original releases, and instead, the juxtaposition with newer material and the performances themselves are left to inform our understanding. We are invited, I believe, to view our current selves as we would have done in younger years, had we been able to, and also to reflect on our past nature and decisions from a mature viewpoint. Beyond that, however, we must recognise that we are still in flux and prepare to become what we cannot now even suspect.

Dave looked for a two word title for this album, and finally chose _Step Up_. The appellation is apt, the phrase being ambiguous and interpretable either as the carnival barker’s cry encouraging us to approach and face strange, shocking and wonderful manifestations, or as the teacher’s exhortation to raise ourselves to a new level and new challenges. In the end, an equally appropriate two word inscription might have been ‘γνῶθι σεαυτόν,’ ‘Know Thyself.’

Chuck Sears

Breath of fresh air!
I've known of Dave as being Al Stewart's lead guitarist, but until I saw their live show last Friday in Houston, I was unaware of how incredibly versatile Dave is. I bought Step Up and it is like I have stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. Beautiful songs and great guitar work. I can't wait to learn how to play them on my guitar!

Chris Bennington

Out of the Shadow
With "Step Up," long-time Al Stewart sideman Dave Nachmanoff has emerged from Stewart's long shadow to offer us a gem of his own. While Nachmanoff has won songwriting awards and plaudits for years, "Step Up" establishes him as one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation.

"Step Up" is one of those rare albums that does not contain a bad song. There is no filler, no clutter, no throw-ins. And the songs run the gamut from tender and poignant ballads to hooky pop-rockers that will have you humming the tunes for days.

Nachmanoff is a brilliant musician. He has demonstrated his virtuosity on the guitar for years playing shows with Stewart as captured on the recent live album "Uncorked." Nachmanoff's abilities are fully documented once again on "Step Up," but he also surrounds himself with a handful of talented musicians and vocalists to build an album of real musical beauty and range.

The breadth of styles will suggest a number of possible influences: I hear a bit of Mellencamp violin here, some Springsteen accordion there, a little bit of Gin Blossoms quirk and easy musicality, a leavening of James Taylor guitar, a pinch of Cat Stevens, and a dollop of Stewart himself. In fact, Stewart contributes lyrics and vocals to the instantly catchy "Sheila Won't Be Coming Home," which, in another place and time, would be the album's first single. But the overall result is pure Nachmanoff, and the result is wonderful.

While all the cuts are good or better, the heart of the album is a trio of songs that resonate on a very personal level. "Fragile Thing" tells the story of a woman who finds it difficult to connect with anyone. "It doesn't take much to set her off," but in Nachmanoff's words she's "a fragile thing, a complicated angel," and "this fragile thing will break your heart." Everybody has known a woman like this, and the song rings true from start to finish.

"Descartes in Amsterdam" is a reworked version of a song Nachmanoff wrote and recorded years ago. It is about a man with no ties and "nothing I can lose" who nonetheless walks the world "in search of truth and beauty." The lyrics are sad but noble and uplifting at the same time, and they fit perfectly with the spare and haunting music that weaves about them.

The most unusual song on the album may be "In Sickness and in Health," which describes the relationship between a man wasting away with disease and his caretaker wife. He knows she loves him, and he counts on her tender care, but he is also tortured by the fact that "you didn't know what you signed on for when you said that you'd be mine." Nachmanoff avoids the treacle of the typical song of doomed love, but I defy you to listen to "In Sickness and in Health" without choking back a few tears of your own.

I have enjoyed Nachmanoff's guitar work at Al Stewart shows for years, but I am a recent fan of his own recordings. I was frankly blown away by "Step Up," and if you like great singer-songwriters, I think you will be, as well. It is album I believe Al would be pleased to call his own.

Angela L

Nachmanoff is a master storyteller
Nachmanoff’s music is somewhat reminiscent of the lyrical humor of Phil Ochs, with a dash of the romanticism of a mature Howie Day. Heartfelt and captivating, his songs are instantly accessible, that connection to the listener that often takes repeated playing happened for me at the first play-through. Dave’s newest offering, "Step Up" contains some real gems. In the track “Fragile Thing” the listener experiences the irresistible siren-call of the enchanting and temperamental woman– she is someone we’ve all met and experienced. The haunting and ethereal “Descartes in Amsterdam” evokes images of modern street gypsies as told in the voice of the nomad himself. The singer laments: “it’s nice to just blend in and be unnoticed, with no map to show me where the proper road is, with the sky above my head, and a park bench for my bed” - lovely, lovely stuff. “Not What I Expected” conjures for me something akin to early Paul Simon— the folksy heartbeat of the guitar and drums capturing a perfect balance of angst and energy.

Dave’s upbeat and bluesy cover of “Rain King,” a Counting Crows tune, is a fresh and imaginative take on the song. “Sheila Won’t be Coming Home” is a catchy number you’ll be singing along with by the second chorus. I could list something about each one, but then where’s your adventure? Every one of his songs has something unique to offer the listener. Nachmanoff opened for Al Stewart, his long-time tour partner, at a concert I recently attended, and he had me as soon as he began to thrum his guitar. By the time he came out to perform “Fragile Thing” I had already sent my husband to purchase anything he could get his hands on. I was blown away at Nachmanoff’s skill on the acoustic guitar and intrigued by the poetry in his lyrics. During the concert, he and Stewart performed “Year of the Cat” and were able to recreate the complex musical structures of all the missing instruments from the original orchestration on two lone guitars. Bad assess, both.

We listen to music for the familiar pull, the lyrics that cause us to reminisce, the connection to the artist’s view of the world. When he or she is able to transport us to a moment we recognize, a moment of life captured in song, that’s the success of it. Nachmanoff is a master. Get it, dig it. You won’t be sorry.
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