Feb. 6, 2013

Paul Zollo's Review of "Blue Collar


By Paul Zollo
American Songwriter Magazine
January 5, 2013

Marc Platt * Blue Collar  That the man is a very serious songwriter is evident from any one of his songs you hear. His previous album, Bitter & Sweet,  was so strong that one might have expected him to peak already, but it just pushed him higher:  to this collection of strength, an EP of songs  about the world at hand, entirely timely but still timeless, like the best music. Like Springsteen, who has discovered many avenues by which to express the plights of the common man in songs, Platt has delivered here a song cycle which faces modern times head on. But lest you worry these are heavy message songs that are no fun, have o fear  – he’s a savvy songwriter who loves great pop and rock; each song here is soulfully inviting.

The opening  “Undervalued Underpaid” has a clear and strident message of the hardship of today’s working world. But it does it in with great musical appeal, the chorus a strong hook, and with CSN-like harmonies it rings with great power and poignancy. Produced by Lisa Nemzo, as was his previous record, these are modern protest songs written by a songwriter who knows his way around a song. Well regarded in  the L.A. songwriting community for his breadth of knowledge, Platt’s a rock and roll kid grown up, and somewhat of a pop and rock and roll historian. He brings that knowledge and savvy to all of his songs: “I’ve Been Told” is a conversational saga which unfolds with a jaunty confidence accented by slide guitar; it’s a song Johnny Cash could have nailed. “Whole World’s Watching” is another perfect wedding of a serious message with a wonderfully propulsive and visceral melody. Set around an unexpected Lennon-like chord progression, it’s  both alarming and deeply haunting, and also boasts one of his most passionate vocals. Nemzo beautifully lets it simmer slowly over an acoustic guitar edge before it bursts out into many sonic directions.

“Living On The Edge” is masterful songwriting, opening with mournful harmonica before launching into the deeply beautiful melody which underpins this story of those on the very edge. Living through these days, in which so many souls walk that razor’s edge which separates us from those on the streets, this one comes across with great power and sensitivity – but is not slightly contrived or false. Like Dylan, Platt finds music and phrasing as serious, and yet inviting, as the magnitude of the subject. Whereas most songs about the homeless are well-intended but very maudlin, and result in a trivialization of the situation, this sounds so genuine, so from the heart that it’s stunning. If only for this song this album would be worth the price of admission. Nemzo’s production of this one is so loving and tender that it underscores the sorrow with delicate dynamism. It’s a track you can listen to over and over, as have I, and it works. It holds up.

“Work In Progress” is a beautiful elegy abut the progress of the heart, and boasts one of Platt’s most magical melodies with finely etched words and an aching but expansive spirit which just seems about to burst;  imagine Bono singing with Mumford & Sons and you get near the idea. He takes what seems like a fairly pedestrian phrase, “Work In Progress” and shows us new possibilities we never expected, the essence of fine songwriting.

It all comes to a close with the single Platt-Nemzo co-write “There’s a Road,” an epic cinematic journey down inevitable pathways of life. This is seriously good. In an era when people complain that nobody writes meaningful songs anymore, here comes Platt with the goods:  Beautifully crafted songs of great depth and spirit with timeless  melodics. This is Rock & Roll for adults. Not to be missed.

To see the great video for “Undervalued Underpaid,” which has been viewed by millions: