While listening to Of A Revolution’s latest album, “Stories of a Stranger,” you can’t help but wonder why there isn’t more music like this in the mainstream.

“Stranger” draws you in from the very beginning with “Heard the World,” on which guitarist Richard On experiments with the mellow sounds of the slide guitar. His solo on this track is nothing flashy – the slow, expressive phrases a sharp contrast to the majority of guitar solos today, which are usually utilized by guitar virtuosos to show off with speedy, intricate fretwork.

The majority of O.A.R.’s material is, unfortunately, not what you would normally find in mainstream music. It’s not that their music isn’t radio-friendly – it’s probably that O.A.R.’s music would just be too much for people who have come to expect the standard “verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus” in three minutes or less. Any deviance from this formula simply doesn’t fly with your average listener who has the attention span of a toddler.

Expanding on the typical jam-band style, On, along with bassist Benji Gershman, drummer Chris Culos, saxophonist Jerry DePizzo and frontman/guitarist Marc Roberge fuse elements of reggae and jazz to create a sound all their own.

From early gigs at Ohio State University, where all the band members attended college, to sold-out shows at New York’s 3,700-capacity Hammerstein Ballroom, the young men of O.A.R. have spent their careers building their reputation as a hard-working touring band with a solid live show.

They are very much a do-it-yourself group, giving them the credibility not typically associated with most artists on radio and TRL playlists, who tend to become more removed from their fans and the creative process as they climb the charts.

While commerical success is a goal O.A.R. hopes to reach with “Stranger,” they have no intentions to take that oft-travelled road to self-absorbed stardom. Staying involved and maintaining their do-it-yourself credo is something O.A.R. will not sacrifice, despite their move to the major label, Lava Records.

The switch to the majors often sends a band’s long-time fans into a state of panic, causing them to re-label their former favorite band as sellouts. But O.A.R. fans have no reason to worry – “Stranger” retains the same unmistakeable sounds of their first album, 1997’s “The Wanderer,” while showing how the band has refined and strengthened their lyrics and overall sound.

Roberge’s recent collaborations with professional songwriters such as Glen Ballard and Chris Keup, has given him the opportunity to hone his skills as a songwriter. Now, instead of writing songs that “started off well but then meandered,” Roberge said he is now able to “complete every thought I was shooting for.”

The result is a more cohesive album that will certainly give O.A.R. more of the attention that they have truly earned.

O.A.R. will play in Rochester on Sat., so make sure to take advantage of this chance to see their legendary live show. They will be playing with Stephen Kellog & The Sixers at the new local venue, the Main St. Armory. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster for $28 and the show is set to begin at 8 p.m.

Swain can be reached at lswain@campustimes.org.



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