Eclectic Mind, the latest album from New Jersey based multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Wayne Olivieri, is a vividly imaginative thirteen song release that shows off the full breadth of his talents. It ranges across a variety of styles. Olivieri is just as talented pushing AOR rock, off-beat artsy tracks, straight ahead rockers, and ballads. There’s no tentativeness in his approach. There’s an often inspired feeling coming from these songs that will sweep listeners up and carry them off into his whirlwinds of melody, emotion, and often humorous incredulity at life’s vagaries, its twists and turns. This is joyful, serious, and playful in turns. Olivieri plays and sings with a confidence born of many years performing live and writing songs, but he’s also shown the good sense and taste to surround himself with a bevy of capable players who help him realize the album’s creative vision. Eclectic Mind is one of the new year’s best releases and a reminder that there are still many older, profoundly powerful artists doing the best work of their careers with the added bonus of maturity and experience.
It’s difficult to imagine a more invigorating one two punch to open the album than the combination of “She’s My Girl” and “I’m Broke Again”. The first song has a herky jerky pop arrangement with strong guitar fills rising out of the mix and sounds positively joyous to have a great girl in his life. The details make this song lyrically and they show his different spin as a songwriter. The second track is darkly comic, an extended shaggy dog joke about making the ends meet and often coming up short, but few performers have ever made being broke sound so freeing. It’s a testament to his talents that Olivieri can take subject matter like this, find the comic elements in it, and exploit them so creatively. The album has a number of affecting ballads. “I’m in Love Again” and “Never Made a Stand” are, arguably, the album’s best efforts in this vein. Both songs revolve, musically, around piano and Olivieri’s voice, but there’s no hint of cheese creeping into the song. Instead, they are emotionally honest and straight forward pieces that lay the songwriter bare for his audience and it pays off marvelously. Another fine ballad from the album, “Mom”, pulls no punches in writing about his mother and has great emotional effectiveness.
He’s equally at home pursuing rock music. “I’m a Music Man” is a mid-tempo rocker with enormous guitars and a lung busting vocal that Wayne Olivieri tackles with relish. “Glory”, however, ramps up the musical intensity and takes listeners on a fast paced thrill ride that seems designed to have audiences shaking their fists in the air with exultant approval. “So Bad to You”, a more moderately paced affair, relies on a mix of powerful electric guitars and darkly hued piano work to build a song of tangible intensity. It’s one of the album’s more underrated gems and comes early in the running order. Eclectic Mind covers a wide variety of bases equally well and Olivieri, in particular, distinguishes himself as an unique songwriter and powerful singer.