***and 1/2 out of *****
He took all of those experiences and put together this album that reflects on past mistakes and hopes for a better future. It is a completely honest straight ahead work that reminds to a lesser degree of Eels Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. The brief opener "Relatively Permanent" is simple honest and contains great word play. This trend would continue with various instrumentation and levels of pathos from track to track.
The title track gets relatively funky and off beat with its backward looking and questioning sense of if things were really better in the past. If "Golden Age" looks back, "Cheap Shades" gets in a time machine to Staples birth in a dour affecting way. "Missionary" reflects on schooling with banjo and horn flourishes while "Full Color Dream paints a brighter picture over solid instrumentation.
The fatalistic sense of realism comes through clearest on "Park Bench" as living everyday to its fullest becomes the only goal. The piano leads "Always On My Mind" while "Time Square" duets a loving personal travel story before a cold plea for Vacation" and escapism.
The elephant in the earphones is Staples vocals. It is just not the sense of loss that equates him to Eels, it is also the vocal delivery that can be clipped dry and average at best. With songs this personal though the singing cuts right through to the heart of the issues and works perfectly. Would a better vocalist improve these songs? Doubtful.
In the end of course, Staples himself describes the album best:
"It's really easy to idealize an earlier time in your life, but it's not useful. It can be a trap that keeps you from finding new good things to live for. Golden Age is about that myth we carry around. The myth of our past being idyllic. I don’t want to waste any more time dwelling on it."_______________________________________________________________
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