Don McCloskey Mixes Grandiose Pop & Rhythmic Delights On ‘The Chaos and The Beauty’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Photo credit: Bryan Karl Lathrop Photography

The Philadelphia based artist Don McCloskey sums it up pretty well in the opening lines of the excellently exuberant “Open The Door” when he sings “So how can I possibly say/That everything is gonna be right?/When I can hardly say if everything’s right tonight”. These fast-changing times, fears, lost and found love and more are addressed throughout The Chaos and The Beauty, ten tracks that deliver folk rock, grandiose pop, and rhythmic delights.  

McCloskey has workshopped these songs over an extended period and uses a wide range of sounds and styles, with instrumentation and backing vocals phasing in and out. “I Feel The Sunrise” begins ominously slow and brooding before kicking up halfway through into a folk-punk while “Fall” uses a digital start before a full on brass ending. 

A few of the tracks run long as “What Comes Natural” is almost an eight-minute soft workout which drags, while his over-the-top dramatic rendering of “O Holy Night” is much better. McCloskey puts a 50’s doo-wop spin (and removes Christ) from the Christmas classic before going complete showtune with piano, backing vocals, chimes, and shifting religious worship lyrics to love song territory in winning fashion.  

The real meat of The Chaos and The Beauty though is influenced directly from one source, Paul Simon’s solo career high point, Graceland. At times, like on the opening “I IV V”, which deals with current day issues, that influence is embedded into McCloskey’s folk/pop/rock style with ease and a nod to Simon, while other songs, like “First in Flight” are too close to the source inspiration. “Unbecoming” also drops into Simon’s sounds pleasantly while the album ends on a super high note with the acoustic based harmonica closing sweetness of “Life After You”. 

Throughout The Chaos and The Beauty McCloskey wears his influences on his sleeve, addressing trying times, fleeting love, and grappling with moving forward when the answers aren’t always clear.   

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