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April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

CD Reviews


by Bart MendozaApril 2024

One of the busiest musicians in San Diego, Josh Weinstein is perhaps best known as an acclaimed keyboardist, working as a sideman with such artists as Jeff Berkley and the Banned, the King Taylor Project, the Johnny Vernazza Band, Pink Froyd, and Carry the Stone. But that’s just a part of the gifted musician’s creative life. He’s also released a string of solo albums, with his fourth and latest such effort, Mind the Gap, up for a San Diego Music Award in the Best Local Recording category this month. It’s a well-deserved nomination for an epic recording. Across its 24 tracks and 84 minutes, Weinstein covers a lot of ground.

The album was a true labor of love, involving a host of Weinstein’s friends and colleagues as well as multiple recording locations. Mind the Gap’s basic tracks were recorded at Jeff Berkley’s Satellite Studios, with Sam Hunt (guitar), Ken Dow (bass), and Kevin Dow (drums). As might be expected with such talent behind the board and in the band, the album sounds great. “Jeff Berkley ran that session and made a whole bunch of good stuff happen for the record in the months (and months and months) I spent working with the files,” Weinstein explained. “Meanwhile, Joe Amato came in and did some additional guitar work, and sax-player Ted Belledin arranged horns for “I Am a Better Ship Than an Anchor,” and played the session for that with (Euphoria Brass Band’s) April West on trombone. Also, Josh Taylor added electric and acoustic guitar, including that gorgeous solo on “Shimmer,” and he and Sandi King contributed more to the project than I can say with their backing vocals, which we did in sessions at Satellite and my home studio—and eventually even their home studio for the last couple of remainders after a rehearsal for something else.”

Weinstein’s heartfelt vocals were recorded on his iPhone. “All the takes on the fancy mics sounded too “expensive” for me, so I replaced every single vocal take with takes I did on the iPhone. There is something very immediate about the sound that really appeals to me.” Notably, Weinstein’s children sing back-up on a song he wrote for them, “Slow Down.” “And my dog, Maverick, is on a couple of tracks, too,” he said good naturedly. Finishing out Mind the Gap, “Ride Out the Fire,” sports “a bunch of people at a songwriting gathering I host, singing back-up on a “last orgy in hell” track that closes the album. A friend plays tuba on that one as well.”

Mind the Gap has a cinematic quality to it. It’s a truly adventurous work, with repeated listens yielding rewards. It’s full of songs of contemplation, a great late-night listen, quiet time where Weinstein’s lyrics can really hit home. “I always think of music in terms of where something is happening,” Weinstein said. “It’s in my head when I’m writing and baked into my thought process as I arrange and edit/produce tracks. I obsessed over the song order, which is sort of an old-fashioned concept in 2024, but in my head there is a gray area among album, book, and movie that this record occupies. I felt it was a release (in a couple of senses of the term) more than it was any single genre of art or commerce. It’s a novel in poems, played out in song form, made into a movie.”

Sonically the album’s touchstones are many. Gospel, bar room blues, R&B, splashes of jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll. Lyrically, the passing of time and love, drinking, laments, and the human condition play a huge part. Weinstein does an amazing job of curating the sounds and textures of the various keyboards used. The album’s range can be felt in the first two tracks, opening with an essentially solo heartfelt piano ballad “Queen of Coney Island,” it’s immediately followed by “Numbers (When It’s Nothing Else), opening up with a funky electric guitar and piano that sounds like the opening to a 1970s police drama. Topped by a megaphone lead vocal and classic soul-styled female backing vocals, the song does indeed feel like a mini-movie.

Mind the Gap has several potential singles. “Jesus of Neverland” is a wonderfully atmospheric song, with echoes of the Great American Songbook and a bit of Nilsson. It already sounds like a standard in the making, instantly memorable. I love when the finger clicks come in during the chorus. I won’t be surprised when this gets covered in the future. Also good is “Shimmer.” Its Gospel choir-styled backing vocals add an anthemic air, which when mixed in with Amato’s aforementioned guitar solo and Weinstein’s Hammond, give the track a late period Pink Floyd feel. Sounding even more so is “San Diego in the Rain,” an excellent stadium rock number that kicks off like a lost Dark Side of the Moon outtake. Then there’s “Unmaking Love,” an R&B groover, complete with a nice counter melody in the backing vocals. With 24 tracks there’s an impressive diversity in sounds and beats on display here. Personal favorite is the title track, a lament counting people and things lost to time, starting with “Miss my dad…,” it’s poignant. The stabbing, calliope-like sounds used as the songs opening hook, shows Weinsteins arranging skills at their best. As does the song’s abrupt ending. A very effective touch.

Mind the Gap is highly recommended. There are numerous influences throughout the album, but fans of Tom Waits or songwriters such as (late period) Paul Simon and Daryl Hall, will find much to appreciate across its hour and 24 minutes. With Mind the Gap, Weinstein has put together a collection of songs that are well worth hearing and set the bar high for his next project.

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