The road to successful large-scale creative collaborations is paved with the remnants of overly-indulgent ego-trips that can barely get off the ground. Look no further than the Super Bowl XLV halftime show or Velvet Revolver for proof that “more people” doesn’t necessarily equate to “better results”. The fact that Slash, one of the greatest guitarists to ever walk this green earth, played an active role in both aforementioned examples of abject failure is not lost on me, nor should it be on you.
No less than 25 musicians have cameos on Orange Moon, and with a roster that stretches from Clint Maedgen to Chris Rehm, Susan Cowsill to Andrew Duhon, Paul Sanchez to Paul Thibodeaux – then continues back and forth across every genre sprouting up or staying alive in this fair city – this project was a perfect candidate to collapse under its own weight. But the beauty of Alexis Marceaux’s second solo release comes through in the restraint she shows even while equipped with nothing less than a murderer’s row of local and national talent.
Under the tutelage of Polyphonic Spree violinist Rick Nelson and her long-time co-conspirator and Glasgow bandmate Sam Craft, Marceaux pairs the mountains of capability at her disposal with a set of intriguingly spacious compositions: layered, complex songs that manage to remain airy in spite of the dense amount of tracking packed into each one. Orange Moon succeeds in the exact places a “big” record should – diversity, virtuosity – while graciously staying out of it’s own way.
The tasteful orchestral backing, haunting coos and hand claps of “Brains” rumble into the soaring “Fox”, a mini-suite of sorts that alternately sets Marceaux’s ethereal voice against delicate guitar work and driving walls of industrial percussion. The enjoyable tension that builds as the album jumps from genre to genre – a stylistic tug of war that would be jarring if it weren’t so well executed – is subsequently relieved with the swampy, primal horn bash “Leila’s Reprise”.
At first, I found the decision to give some of the who’s who of New Orleans brass – “Big Sam” Williams, Preservation Hall’s Clint Maedgen, Bonerama’s Craig Klein, all-around nice guy Michael Girardot – less than 30 seconds to wail wholly disappointing, a seeming waste of having them in the studio taking direction. But the short, powerful interlude gives the listener just enough time to blow off some steam without destroying the considerately curated mood of the album with unnecessary intemperance.
If someone like me was behind the boards, Orange Moon would have been 45 minutes of out of place trombone solos and decadent guitar riffs, which would have resulted in a considerably worse final product than the inspired nuance Marceaux rustled out of this all-star cast.