By: Bill Clifford
After fourteen years of writing and performing his own songs, Charlie Mars is truly one of the great bards of the South. He released his first recording, Broken Arrow, by the Charlie Mars Band in 1994. Since, he's released four full-length CDs, including 2004's eponymous major label debut, and he's toured the world in support of them all. Still, the Mississippi raised singer-songwriter has flirted with success, but never quite peaked. Mars' sound has always been straight ahead, American rock, akin to Tom Petty sans the nasal vocals. And through all of his recordings, a theme of rising above has been constant.
His most recent, independently released CD, the atmospheric, Like A Bird, Like A Plane has the premise of getting above it all - the 9 to 5 existence we all reside under, the in and outs of love. But for long-time Mars' fans, this one may take several listens before it grows on you. At first, it's a much mellower CD with nary the guitar driven rock of his past, in favor of sampled beats and slow acoustic dirges.
Then, after several spins and reading through the lyrics, you hear the same aching, longing heart, seeking elevation. That's clear on the leadoff title track, a slow, dark and eerie ballad that illustrates where two like-minded, spirited souls, vowing never to grow up, could meet. Hallowed B3 keys (John Ginty) are the foundation for Mars' graceful vocals and a cadent percussion backing. "Meet Me By The Backdoor" is every bit the illicit affair its title suggests, while the steady beat of "What Are You Looking For?" suggests getting away from it all: "Oh, I really don't know/ what is coming over me/ But I want to find me a plane/ fly it high in the sky/ Buy us two tickets girl/ and kiss everyone goodbye."
"Listen To The Darkside" is the catchiest melody of the collection, and you'll find yourself singing along as all hell breaks loose around you: "If you want to come over/ Come over and get high/ We can listen to the Dark Side, Of The Moon." If nothing else, it will at least convince you to spend more time with the Pink Floyd classic. "Banging On Your Door" is one of Mars' oldest songs represented here, and it's undergone a complete transformation from what was once a driving, rock anthem to an atmospheric, piano based plea. "Tell Me Twice" is a somber, lovely piano and acoustic guitar ballad with a soothing chorus of female backing vocalists.
Given several spins through, Like A Bird, Like A Plane is a fine addition to the canon of one of the South's most under appreciated songwriters.
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