Marci Geller is a New York-based folk singer-songwriter who has performed all over the world including California. In fact, Geller hopes to once again visit Los Angeles in the near future. Open Book is her “first solo CD since disbanding (her) popular trio Lucky 13 in 2011”.
On her most recent release –produced by Gian DiMauro, guitarist David Warner Cook and Geller–Geller (lead vocals, piano and keys) works with an assortment of other artists in order to create a noteworthy collection of twelve tunes. Assisting Geller is: Brian Dunne (drums), Jack Knight (bass), David Glaser (electric guitar) and Marshall Rosenberg (percussion).
The album opens on “Day Without The Kids”. This includes David Glaser on electric guitar and features guest vocalist James Maddock. It’s a bittersweet song about a woman’s first day after her children have moved out of the house.
The second selection is “Gotta Love That Man”. This one was co-written with Cook and focuses on a husband who loves and knows his wife well. It’s musically highlighted by Oli Rockberger on keyboards and guest singers Donna Bach-Heitner and Honor Finnegan.
The next number is “Awakened Mind” which like all the other songs here are Geller originals. This is a tuneful tribute to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Glaser returns this time on the e-bow and Maddock once again adds his vocal talents.
“Thank You” follows here with a lyrical focus on enjoying and being happy for the little things in life. The multi-talented John Tabacco appears here as guest vocalist and Jonathan Preddice on cello. The lyrics are memorable at times as well: “I will still be painting walls with my confessions”. Well, that’s what good songwriting is all about, right?
“Another Breakdown” is about what Geller calls “an unexpected moment of self-doubt” when “the protagonist digs deeper for reassurance”. Rockberger returns on keyboards, DiMauro adds backing vocals and Tabacco encores as guest vocalist. It’s followed by an energetic “No Weather Down” where Geller sings a positive musical metaphorical message about perseverance with Vance Gilbert.
The longest track follows. Titled “Driving In Manhattan”, in which Geller navigates through a musical “maze of the big city” and her own personal perils and pitfalls complete with a contemporary computer reference: “And then I read you chose someone else from a post on Facebook”. Cook and Tabacco add their vocal talents again over DiMauro’s arrangements and programming.
“Little Light” lets the lady come to the rescue as the song provides an equal opportunity foil to track two. Barbara Kessler is introduced on additional vocals and Rockberger adds his keys. The track is rounded off with a guitar solo by Cook.
“Critic’s Choice” goes to “Promets-Moi”. It’s the shortest cut but remains special nonetheless due in part to the talents of cellist Jean-Philippe Martignoni. Inspired by a trip to Geneva to perform at a wedding, this love song—sung in French—is refreshing and Geller’s voice sounds even more beautiful en Francais.
The tenth tune is a tip of the hat to the late folk artist Jack Hardy titled “Jack Sang On”. It’s a soft, somehow sad song and yet also a clearly cathartic cut. Preddice encores on cello, DiMauro provides backing vocals and end chorus vocals are added thanks to Jeremiah Birnbaum, Elaine Romanelli, Josh Joffen, Claudia Jacobs, Maya Joffen, Richard Karelis, Amy Rosen and Michael Kornfield.
The heartfelt reflections continue with “Tom McCarthy” which is a lyrical follow-up inspired by a memorial service for Hardy. Preddice once more adds a touch of cello and the sound is fleshed out with Finnegan and Bach-Heitner on additional vocals.
The closing cut is “Surf The Undertow”. Jessie Marino plays cello this time on a lifestyle song that sounds somehow like it would fit quite well into the soundtrack of a film adaptation of a John Irving film. It includes Carol Steele on Cajun and is somehow both familiar and yet has an odd, unique angle all its own.
Indeed while some critics might feel we’ve “heard this all before”, the truth is this comment reflects more on the universality of her themes and not so much on her songwriting capabilities. While there are only so many plots in the world, Geller is one of those writers who can take a common theme and personalize it. Truly this disc contains almost 42 minutes of sincere songwriting that simply shows her heart is an Open Book.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.