On July 13th 2018, Grammy Award-winning American songwriter Clif Magness released his newest solo album, Lucky Dog. The album, being his second effort as a solo artist after 1994’s aptly named “Solo” record, features 11 tracks of melodic rock goodness, with an abundance of vocal and instrumental harmonies standing out throughout the record.
Clif Magness is known for his work as a co-writer and producer for Avril Lavigne, as well as his collaborations with artists such as Celine Dion, Joe Bonamassa, Barbara Streisand and Quincy Jones, with whom Magness won a Grammy Award for his contribution to Jones’ “The Places You Find Love“.
“Lucky Dog” opens with “Ain’t No Way“, a riff-centric, arena-rock ear worm that sets the pace for the rest of the album. Ain’t No Way has vibrant, up-beat verses that lead into anthematic, high-power choruses that are guaranteed to get stuck in your head after the first listening.
The next two tracks from “Lucky Dog“, “Don’t Look Now” and “Unbroken“, almost achieve the inverse of “Ain’t No Way“, shifting away from the arena-rock vibe, leaning towards the feel of power ballads, having softer verses that lead into big, Bon Jovi-like choruses and emotionally-driven guitar solos.
“Like You“, the fourth track from the album, returns to the loud and vibrant sound established in “Ain’t No Way“, returning to the melodic, punchy verses and the anthematic choruses. The verses in Like You have a strong emphasis on harmony, having the vocal line be in synch with the guitar melody, establishing a strong sense of unity and making for very memorable verses. The choruses, similarly to “Ain’t No Way“, are very memorable, being anthematic and somewhat repetitive (though, not in a bad way!).
“Love Needs a Heart” can be summarised as an amalgamation of the previous four tracks, acting as both somewhat of a power-ballad as well as an anthem. The song is a duet, featuring a female vocalist that effectively counterbalances Clif’s rough and driven vocals. Though Clif holds down a majority of the vocal duties, the accompanying vocalist holds down the harmonies and strengthens the song, making it distinctive from the rest of the album.
“Nobody But You” is one of the more dynamic songs on the album, opening as an up-beat acoustic arrangement that progresses into being somewhat of a pop-rock powerhouse. The gradual layering of the song, with the effective implementation of a staggered-start, really progresses the song in a positive way, as well as expressing Clif’s experience as an arranger, with the concept of ‘less is more’ being evident throughout.
“Maybe“, the seventh track of the album, is another ballad, being lyrically and thematically similar to The Beatles’ “Maybe I’m Amazed“. However, though the lyrics have a sense familiarity to them, the instrumental portion of the song rings true to the other ballads on the album, being distinctively Clif Magness, while also remaining distinct in comparison to “Don’t Look Now” and “Unbroken“.
“Shout” is perhaps the most guitar centric song on the album, starting with a roaring riff that brings forth the rest of the track. The song is not dissimilar to “Ain’t No Way” or “Like You“, yet refrains from being similar enough to being a repeat of the other tracks.
Rain is perhaps the most distinctive track off the album, not being a ballad or a high-powered rock anthem. The track starts off as an acoustic pop-rock piece, being different enough to the rest of the track-listing to stand out, while also not feeling out of place. Gradually, the track returns to the form of the rest of the album, becoming loud and anthematic in the middle to latter-half of the song.
“Rain” is perhaps the most distinctive track off the album, not being a ballad or a high-powered rock anthem. The track starts off as an acoustic pop-rock piece, being different enough to the rest of the track-listing to stand out, while also not feeling out of place. Gradually, the track returns to the form of the rest of the album, becoming loud and anthematic in the middle to latter-half of the song.
“All Over My Mind“, the penultimate track for Lucky Dog, can be described as being the inverse of “Love Needs a Heart” as, though it acts as an amalgamation of a power-ballad and an arena rock track, it leans far more on the latter than the former. The track also signals the return of the harmonized rhythm guitar and vocal parts during the versus, not dissimilarly to Like You.
“My Heart“, the final track of the album, opens with a soft instrumental section and a focus on Clif’s strong, wailing vocals, both being used to establish the Toto-like atmosphere of the song. Similarly to “Nobody But You“, “My Heart” implements gradual layering in a purposeful and impactful way, truly making “My Heart” one of the most memorable songs on the album and a very satisfying conclusion to “Lucky Dog“.
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