CD Review: Paul Cusick "Focal Point"


The moral of this story: Sometimes you do get a second chance to make a first impression.

While perusing ye olde Facebook back in April of 2010, I was shown an ad for an album by a guy named Paul Cusick. I have Dream Theater listed among bands that I like, and the ad said something like “Do you like Dream Theater? Check out Paul Cusick!” So for the first time in recorded history, I clicked on a advertising link on Facebook. It took me to his web site, and it turned out that Paul Cusick is an English multi-instrumentalist who had recorded a progressive rock album in 2009 called Focal Point. I’m a fan of progressive rock and I’m always impressed by multi-instrumentalists, so I figured what the heck. The album was available in digital-only format for about ₤5, which is less than $10 so I gave it a shot. Since the ad mentioned Dream Theater, I was expecting some pretty heavy stuff – but by the end of the album, I have to admit being a little disappointed. It was pretty good, but much of it wasn’t nearly as heavy as I was expecting. As a result, I might have listened to the album maybe once more over the next six months or so – every time I saw it in the iPod listing, I remembered “Oh right, that wasn’t very good, was it?” Then recently I gave it another listen but this time I kind of forgot about the Dream Theater link (which ironically brought this guy to my attention in the first place), and found that I enjoyed the album a lot more.

No, this album doesn’t sound much like Dream Theater, other than the frequent time signature changes. But as I said, once I stopped the comparisons, I realized that this is quite a good album. Cusick is a talented musician with a quiet voice – no screaming here. He plays all the instruments except drums, and proves himself to be a good guitarist and bassist but particularly a keyboardist. There are a lot more keyboards than guitar on this album. The Dream Theater comparison didn’t work, but some tracks (Fade Away, Touch, Senza Tempo) remind me of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s On An Island album. This is a good thing, as I love that album.

Mini-reviews of each song:

Focal Point – Cool keyboard-based prog-rock instrumental track.

Everblue – This song has a very full sound – it’s hard to believe it’s just one person performing this (other than drums). Yes I know how multi-track stuff works, but still.

Fade Away – This ballad reminds me a lot of the Gilmour album.

Soul Words – Funky song with some nice bass and guitar work.

Scared To Dream – Starts off slowly with just piano and vocals and then the guitar and drums come in, but I like how he keeps the piano riff in the background. Very cool.

Touch – Similar to Scared To Dream – starts off slowly, then gets faster. Great drums on this track.

Senza Tempo – Paul found the guitar! There has been lots of rhythm guitar up to this point, but not much lead. This one is a very melodic solo guitar piece.

Big Cars – Fast hard-rocking guitar track. No keyboards anywhere to be found. This one reminds me of Porcupine Tree.

Hold On – Sounds like it was written to be a single. Not bad but not my favourite.

Hello – Piano and vocals only. Slow and kind of haunting.

Cusick’s second solo album, called P’Dice, is being recorded now and you can pre-order it here. The first 500 people to pre-order will have their names listed in the CD sleeve, and also get a “personalised limited edition postcard”. If you look, you’ll see my name there (along with “The Edge”! Is it The The Edge? I dunno), though there’s no release date or even an estimate. But I’m looking forward to hearing it.

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