A Vivascene Featured Article by Hal Carlson
Here are the facts: Dylan Lock is but twenty-two years old. Lives in Midland, Ontario, Canada. Steeped in The Beatles, Queen and Elton John. Working on his debut album. Getting some considerable airplay on CBC Music. A skinny, handsome lad with outsized talent.
Here is our speculation: that debut album, whenever it arrives sometime in 2013, is gonna make this kid a star, and not just in Canada. He writes amazingly well, performing complex piano-based compositions with vocal and musical hooks that reveal one magnificent singing voice, maybe the most interesting progressive rock voice since Freddy Mercury. Pretty outlandish praise, wouldn’t you say? Dylan Lock has got something we’re not used to hearing in Canada, and that is a willingness to take chances and the confidence to pull it off, lyrically, vocally and structurally. Tempo changes, dynamics, subject matter beyond young love/heartbreak/thwarted desires: Dylan employs them all. Frankly I can hardly wait for the entire album to be released and for the other reviews to start pouring in. Makes me proud to be a Canadian, what with the present crop of Canuck brilliance out and on tap: Emma-Lee, Portage & Main, Japandroids, and now, just around the corner, Dylan Lock.
Don’t know how it happened in this modest little country of ours. The strength and maturity of Dylan Lock’s music says he should be from England or New York,- you know, some sophisticated pop/rock symphonic wonderland where he’s been educated and nurtured by the likes of George Martin or Brian May or – you get the drift. But wait a minute- Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Burton Cummings, Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte Marie came from Canada, and they were all standouts. However, with the exception of Cummings, and yes, Japandroids and Arcade Fire, Canada has produced mostly introspective folkies. Dylan Lock is a welcome addition to the Canadian catalogue – his songs are big, they’re ambitious, and they’re addictive while being adventurous. In fact, this was what Billy Joel did in his first few albums, mixing piano, blues, pop and great vocals. Did I mention Dylan can sing??? One terrific voice with immaculate elocution and inherent charisma sums it up. Can he sustain it? – my suspicion is that he has what it takes to go as far in progressive pop music as he cares to travel.
I was fortunate to see and hear both Burton Cummings and Billy Joel at the height of their undisputed powers and I’ve auditioned much of their work, early, middle and late. Neither of them accomplished in their early albums what Dylan is capable of doing right now. They both went on to achieve great things in music, each writing several pop classics. As for young Mr. Lock, what he may do in the future no one can predict, but my caution to Dylan is this: as tempting as it may be to over-produce these ambitious songs with over the top studio embellishments, many of these relatively stripped-down tracks are first rate as they are. In Billy Joel’s famous words “don’t go changin'”.
Unless, that is, you’re able to land a producer with the chops of Phil Ramone or Roy Thomas Baker. There’s no doubt you’ve got killer material in you. In your career, your producer is going to matter a great deal. Studio excesses diminished the wonder of Dusty Springfield’s vocals, and even with great material Phil Spector went too far on more than one record. We have the current example of Adele, with the relatively disappointing “Skyfall” after the magnificent work done on her 21 album. It’s not too soon to say that you’re going to face these same challenges.
Dylan has had his greatest success so far with “Killer & The Sin”, an exploration of what alcohol can do to a life. It’s a great number, but “This Girl”, “Shanti Love” and “Same Old Thing” surpass them. You can hear see his video and hear two other tracks below, courtesy of SoundCloud. A delightful discovery awaits the listener.
You can find out more about Dylan Lock here: