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Album Review

Scott McDavid | Love One Another

May 10, 2019 (O&F) – Musician Scott McDavid says he used to try and write pop songs, but the results never turned out well.  Then he decided to ignore “the rules” and write songs designed to please himself, and that’s when his natural abilities came to the forefront.  He developed a unique sound that utilizes elements of funk, jazz, pop, rock, soul and a few other genres that have yet to be labeled.

On his latest album, Love One Another, McDavid puts his rule-breaking on display with 10 original songs and one cover that showcase what he’s learned – and what rules he’s learned to ignore – in his years in the music industry.  The album also points to the musical artists and styles that have been a major inspiration in his life.

“My influences are a tossed salad of genres and artists that include some well-known names like Peter Gabriel, Yes, The Beatles, Chick Corea, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Earth Wind & Fire (EW&F), Robert Palmer, Billy Joel and others.”

McDavid credits his upbringing as the reason he loves and plays a large variety of styles.

“My mom and dad were very musical people. They listened to everything from Glen Miller to Miles Davis; Frank Sinatra to Marvin Gaye; and Prokofiev to Polynesian folk music, and I was there for all of that growing up.”

The ‘Motown sound’ also made a heavy impression on McDavid, who was born and raised in Alabama, which has a large and varied music scene.  He played in several cover bands that gained regional exposure, and in the 1980s he joined the group Split the Dark, which featured fellow Alabamians from the rock group Hotel.  He’s also played with a number of other highly respected musicians, including jazz guitarist Eric Essix, and McDavid can be heard on Essix’s 1991 album Second Thoughts.

McDavid moved to the West coast to make his way into the film industry as a composer and producer, and he’s scored documentary films and written jingles and songs for commercials and video games.  (If you’ve watched the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet, you’ve probably heard some of his music.)

In 2018, McDavid co-wrote the song “Winter Blue” especially for jazz singer Sarah Partridge, who performed the song during her winter tour.

For this new album, which McDavid describes as having a “somewhat off pop-center nature,” he’s taken a collection of songs that span more than 30 years in his career, and he’s recorded them for the first time.

The opening track is “It’s Got to Be You,” which immediately makes you understand that McDavid knows how to create infectious grooves that draw you into a song.  It has an R&B feel with a Friday-night-anthem quality that highlight’s McDavid’s ability to arrange and produce as well as write.

By adding some pop to his soulful nature, McDavid delivers “I Just Want to Be with You,” which may remind you a bit of EW&F.  One could easily see this song, as well as “It’s Got to Be You,” as the big radio favorites from the album.

Another catchy tune with a cleverly worded story line is “Whatever You Do,” which tells a tale from a hit-and-run lover’s point of view.  He warns a companion “Whatever you do don’t love me/Intelligence is the key/Sweet words you may have heard me say in a late-hour fling/Don’t mean, don’t mean anything.”  And he punctuates his message with a clear warning that he “leaves a trail of misery.”

With a different arrangement, it’s the type of song Sinatra could have crooned to great success, but, of course, the ‘Chairman of the Board’ didn’t have as much funk as McDavid does.

The other side of a relationship is explored in “You Can’t Touch Me Now,” a soulful pop song that has the woman leaving after treating her lover less than honestly.  The song follows “Whatever You Do” on the album, and the pairing offers a clever look at love from multiple views.

The cover tune on the album is “You are in My System,” originally written and recorded by the group The System in 1982; however, it’s the late Robert Palmer’s 1983 version that attracted McDavid.

He says he put together a new version of the song as a tip-of-the-hat to Palmer, a performer for whom McDavid has a great deal of respect and admiration.  Palmer was an artist who, like McDavid, loved to play with sounds and grooves, and although it is some of Palmer’s rock songs that are best remembered, the British singer loved soul, jazz, funk and other genres that he incorporated into his recordings.

“This unique arrangement of the song holds true enough to Palmer’s version to be recognizable,” McDavid says, “while taking us to new ground.  It will definitely get you moving.”

The album closes with the title track coupled with “LOA Agitation” followed by a piece called “Chant of the Palms,” and together these tracks make a powerful statement with some of the best instrumentation on the album.

McDavid says “Love One Another” was born from “a wonderful sentiment etched into the concrete sidewalk near my home in San Diego.”  That simple message has been turned into a seven-minute musical treatise that starts with bass and drums while strings, keyboards and other instrumentation are layered onto a music track that supports McDavid’s vocal plea and eventually leads to a powerful conclusion with sounds of an electric guitar.

The song features the memorable line “Love one another…before we hate ourselves away,” and before you have a chance to digest the entire meaning of the song, “Chant of the Palms” begins.  After the intenseness of “Love One Another,” ‘Palms,’ a largely instrumental piece, offers a soothing, almost meditative sound that differs from everything else on the album.  It’s another indication that McDavid’s instincts are spot on, and he knows exactly what we need to hear at that moment.

Interestingly, that song is one of the oldest on the album, and McDavid says the original conception “began as a simple melody back in 1988 while on a beach, under a palm tree in the Florida Keys.”

Although the songs on the album originated at different times, they all come together for a cohesive collection that is fresh and a fine representation of McDavid’s talent.

The album will be released May 21st.

-Robert Neil