Let's talk fruit, specifically the orange, handily orange-colored, better when it's firm and thick skinned, just like you and I. Shaped like the sun, the orange is your direct connection to vitamin C (and sticky hands). The orange comes at you in many forms: orangeade, orange candy, the pivotal ingredient in one of the greatest knock-knock jokes ever devised, and the ever-popular orange juice, killer with pulp, wussy without.
Nothing beats opening a juicy orange by splitting it slightly at the top and crow barring it open with your fingers, as fast as you can; the juice sprays all over the place and practically begs you to plant your teeth into one of the halves and suck the life out of the thing. (Try it sometime--the experience is practically orgasmic.)
All of which pretty much describes the experience of listening to Richard Orange's Big Orange Sun, a big and round and juicy kind of record that's good for you, and good to you, too. This special edition, which features three bonus tracks, is like a big, fat, extra-juicy orange that keeps on giving long after one half its size has gone down for the count.
A big, juicy Beatleoid, Orange wears his pulp on his sleeve, serving up slices of sweet pop bliss, seemingly effortlessly, but we all know that if it were that easy, we'd all be named Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. But Orange is more than a Beatles guy; he's a fan and practitioner of catchy music, and this he doles out handily and with great pleasure.
Orange can sound like a pumped-full-of-sugar-and-salt McCartney grinding out "Monkberry Moon Delight" as if his life depended on it, as he does on the opener, "Mental Dentist," and the old time rock 'n' roll love song "Absolutely Positively," on which he manages to ape Macca's vocal technique on the first line of the verses from Press to Play's "Angry." Orange can also sound tender on the Lennonesque "Fall Off the World (Mimi's Song)," which sports a delectable chorus that really sings.
Mostly though, Orange sounds like a learned student applying acquired techniques to his art. The widescreen stereo sound is perfectly balanced, with every instrument clearly placed in its most effective position. Melody is obviously key. Every element works to service the song. Considerable thought has enabled the songwriter to translate his ideas to living sound poems able to affect listeners' senses. This is no mean feat.
Songwriters that are being true to themselves don't write for the privilege of being a cog in the hit-making machine; writing artificially must come harder than writing from the heart and soul, meaning that art created for commerce can never truly be considered art. Songwriters that can write songs from the heart and soul that become hits...well, that's quite an art in itself. The upbeat, chugging, pure pop delight "All the Way to China (Hole in My Heart)" is an example of that art; it is perfectly realized, each and every jangle well-placed, with a melody that digs as deep as the China of the title. The song was first performed by Cyndi Lauper, but Orange considers his the definitive version. I won't argue with him.
Whether Orange is spinning the tale of Captain Morgan, who was persuasive with words but couldn't put his war plans in motion ("Ballad of Captain Morgan") or waxing poetic about being steadfast ("Subterranean Sea"), he is proving his considerable musical worth. He's been paying attention to those who came before him, the Lennons and McCartneys and the like of the world; their influence is heard throughout this album, most persuasively on two of the bonus tracks: "Beatlesqe," a heartfelt display of affection for the Fabs' legacy; and "Yuppie Pie/No. 5," a "Hey Jude"-meets-"Revolution 9" tour de force that is simply mind-blowing.
As is Big Orange Sun, a hall-of-fame-worthy record that unveils new layers with each repeat listen. If Richard Orange didn't actually exist, someone would have had to invent him. Peel him right away.
Go to: Richard Orange's web site