Jeff Gutman | No Way Back

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Rock: Acoustic Rock: Progressive Rock Moods: Mood: Intellectual
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No Way Back

by Jeff Gutman

An album four years in the making, these complex songs seamlessly combine elements from many different musical genres to tell the stories of characters at different crossroads in their lives.
Genre: Rock: Acoustic
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Hitchhiker
7:15 $0.99
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2. Emerald Eyes
6:25 $0.99
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3. Not Too Late
5:42 $0.99
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4. Masquerade
8:16 $0.99
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5. Pyramid
4:11 $0.99
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6. Once Again
3:07 $0.99
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7. Falling Backward Again
3:02 $0.99
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8. Movin' Down the Line
2:32 $0.99
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9. The Sky is Falling
4:53 $0.99
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10. The Secret
3:24 $0.99
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11. Holiday in the Sun
4:38 $0.99
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12. No Way Back
4:33 $0.99
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13. What in the World
5:59 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
I first started working on these songs in the summer of 2002. I was writing at the pace of one new song every week. They came to me in small fragments, each in a very different style and mood. I quickly found that I could combine them into larger songs with multiple sections and I started coming up with stories that fit the mood of each piece. They became like mini-suites, a musical journey that took the listener through a short story. Some sections had echoes of blues and hard rock, some elements of classical, some elements of Americana and jazz chords, even some funk and reggae. But they all fit very smoothly together, with almost unnoticeable transitions.

Most of 2003 was spent practicing the material. I worked dilligently in the basement of the Conservatory of Music, making the songs tighter and expanding on the arrangements. Musical passages became longer or shorter and the songs slowly became cemented. By mid-2004, I was ready to record.

Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts with my band kept coming up and the recording sessions kept getting pushed farther and farther back. By the end of 2004, it seemed like the album would never be recorded. Finally, I decided in the beginning of 2005 that I would go about recording the whole album by myself.

I started by laying down the drums sounds for the whole album, playing to a metronome. Then I followed by adding the bass tracks to each song. Now that I had put down a rythmn section, I added acoustic guitars in multiple layers, sometimes as many as ten per song. Then came electric guitars in dozens of layers, both for rythmn and lead. Then came the multiple piano tracks. Then came banjos, mandolin, accordian, theremin, slide whistle and kazoo, war drums, and Chinese Pipa. I even wrote an orchestral score to one song featuring a Cello, Violins, French horn and Oboe. I hired the orchestra musicians and added it to the album, layering the parts multiple times. Finally, I added lead vocals and four part harmonies for the backup vocals. The recording process was finished by the summer of 2006. By this time, each song had as many as seventy different tracks. The album was mixed in the fall of 2006 and finally released in December.

With this album, I feel like I was able to accomplish what I set out to make. It's a record that takes the listener through many different styles and moods. The reoccurring theme that comes through is that there is no way back to sanctuary. So many people live their lives in the past, feeling that things were better then. The characters in these songs each find in different ways that there is no way back home.

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Reviews


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joel brown

No Way Back
This album covers a lot of territory. I found myself reminded of how varied an album can be while listening. No two songs come from the same place. The instrumentation and the songwriting is consistently inventive and surprising and I think Mr. Gutman has a lovely voice. Would give it 5 stars but I'm sure there's better to come.
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gabe gonzales

No Way Back
San Francisco singer/songwriter Jeff Gutman wastes no time making his presence known on No Way Back, his fourth and most complex album, released on Mr. Knees Records. With the growling a-la Tom Petty electric guitar on the album’s first track “Hitchhiker”, Gutman announces his arrival. Rolling on with the dreamy and heartfelt “Emerald Eyes” and the simple folk-rock of “Not Too Late”, Jeff makes it clear he’s no newcomer to the game of songwriting. On the album’s fourth track “Masquerade“, Jeff shows us that there’s a bit of a dark side to this folk-rocker, employing an orchestra to better accentuate the song’s haunting tone with evocations of Phantom of the Opera. A great thing about No Way Back is that while Gutman makes clear his affection for folk music and seventies’ rock, he manages to keep it fresh and diverse without alienating. With “Pyramid” Gutman proves to us that each of his songs isn’t just a pretty melody, but a story that unfolds as you listen. Aside from its intimate storytelling, No Way Back also covers a wide spectrum of songs in which Gutman expertly dabbles with several different genres. From the jazzy, Burt Bacharach-like number “Once Again”, with its lounge guitar and satin-smooth production; to the playful, back-woodsy “Movin’ Down the Line”, with its tireless banjo groove; and the dark, incestuous “The Secret”, which sounds like a collaboration between Steely Dan and Tom Waits. Nearing the end of the album, Gutman hits gold with standouts such as the poppy, Beatles-esque “Holiday in the Sun”, and the album’s title track “No Way Back”, with its beautiful instrumentation and self-conscious lyrics. Throughout No Way Back, Gutman puts a fresh twist on the term singer/songwriter. Keeping it fresh isn’t easy either, as Gutman shows his musical prowess by playing each instrument on the album—from guitar, piano, mandolin and banjo, to percussion, theremin—and even Chinese Pipa! But Gutman doesn’t stop there; he showcases some of his other artistic talents by not only working as producer on the album, but by designing the cover art as well. No Way Back is a joyous listen from beginning to end, and is but a reminder of the many more wonderful stories to be told by Jeff Gutman.
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Frank Gutch Jr.


Jeff Gutman has balls. Billing himself as "a different kind of songwriter", he in effect sticks out his artistic chin and says hit me. Different? Is that even possible in today's world of a zillion artists with twenty gazillion albums? Shockingly enough, he is. And it is. Oh, maybe he is not totally unique, but he is unique enough and that separates No Way Back from most of the albums being recorded these days.

For one thing, the album is pieced together so well you easily see the madness as the music unfolds. The songs are not songs but movements, placed one before the other to create a sense of journey. There is a McCartney's-first-album feel to Hitchhiker which kicks off the album (Gutman plays all instruments on this and most other tracks), but he leaves that behind when the more ambitious Emerald Eyes takes over and the real ride begins. Next, a rock track with the hint of ska rhythm, then the slightly demented Masquerade takes you on a search for love which ends, shall we say, badly. Musically, though, it is helped along by a chamber orchestra of sorts which creates a Moody Blues sounding bridge worthy of mention, and oh those harmonies! Skip a couple of tracks and follow Once Again, a slow lounge ballad with a simple and emotive jazz guitar lead, to the theremin (I'm guessing) driven, instrumental Falling Backwards Again", to the hillbilly inspired Movin' Down the Line", to The Sky Is Falling and its psych/folk core and musically it makes so much sense you accept it completely. If this had been released in the early '70s, it would have been labeled progressive folk. Today, call it what you want. It just works!

As vocalist, Gutman acquits himself nicely, his voice in the upper register of, say, a Jesse Colin Young with a slightly different texture and approach. Pleasant enough by itself, its strength is how easily it fits within the framework of each movement and how effective it is when stacked in harmony. And the man can play! Instruments listed include the aforementioned theremin, guitar, piano, bass, mandolin, accordion, Dulan War Drum, Chinese Pipa, washboard, chimes, bells, and whistles—all played by Gutman himself. Now, that is diversity.

Gutman took four years to piece this together. Only he knows the convolutions necessary to get here from there, but one can imagine. Four long years. The good thing is, it is well worth the effort. Let us hope it does not take another four for the next one.
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Mark Waterbury

No Way Back
San Francisco singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalist Jeff Gutman shows varied personalities on this, his fourth album. “Hitchhiker” kicks off the disc with a rock flavor ala unplugged Collective Soul. “Emerald Eyes” is one of several songs that show a deep rooted folk influence, while “Movin’ Down the Line” is organic bluegrass where he proves his prowess on the banjo is equal to his acoustic guitar mastery. With a haunting emotive voice and lyrics that are intelligent but also to the point, Jeff has that little something extra that fans of singer/songwriters hunger for.
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