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No Outlet
Artist: Jeff Elbel + Ping 
Label: Marathon Records
Length: 10 songs/39:56

Jeff Elbel has been around.  As a member of Farewell to Juliet, he has played the New Band Showcase stage at Cornerstone twice.  He has done session work with Blackball and LSU.  He has written and recorded with Sunny Day Roses and EDL.  He has produced Thee Spivies, Officer Negative, Mike Knott, Brian Healy, and the

Now, he has formed another band, Ping, and released an acoustic project called No Outlet. Elbel claims King's X, the 77's, and VoL as influences, but this album is tinged more with a 70's feel, probably due to its acoustic nature. "Radio Flyer," the first song, could be a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young tune.  "Here Comes the Sunburn" sounds like a cross between Neil Young and Jethro Tull.  At other times, Elbel's vocals, combined with that of Carolyn Key, approach those of Fleetwood Mac.  "The Crawl," an instrumental, also is reminiscent of Jethro Tull, probably due to the flutework of Ginger Gonzalez. Tracks 3 though 7 make up the "Meet Your Maker" suite, five songs that will appear on the next Ping album.  The highlight here is "Miracle Rain."  It will be interesting to hear these songs fully fleshed out with electric guitars on the  upcoming release.   The acoustic version recalls 70's era band Rising Hope.

Elbel has designated the profits from No Outlet to serve as a benefit to the Gene Eugene Memorial Fund, and Habitat for Humanity.  If you like acoustic music, harmonies, and a variety of instruments, buy this CD.

Brian A. Smith 8/28/2001

It started out simple enough: record an EP for to have ready at a benefit concert. However, band personnel changes forced Jeff Elbel (formerly of Farewell to Juliet and Sunny Day Roses) to postpone the project. Long story short, the four-song EP that Elbel and friends planned to have ready for last September's concert to benefit Gene Eugene never materialized. Instead, Elbel and his heavily-populated throw-together band, Ping, have released an effort with five newly recorded songs and a stripped-down, five-song acoustic preview of an upcoming album, Meet your Maker. The end result, No Outlet, is much more cohesive than one might expect given the situation.

The disc starts with a catchy tune called "Back Into the Cage." Upon closer inspection, the song's lyrical content is quite weighty. This song was penned after a visit to the Emergency Room by Elbel's daughter, Megan. Lyrics such as "Every father does a little addition/counting twenty is a noble tradition," the song recounts Elbel's experience of trying to deal with being strong for Megan while feeling quite weak himself. "Radio Flyer," another ode to children, is a lighter tune focusing on the innocence of childhood. Jangly guitars with a xylophone adding a sunny feel to this one.

No Outlet continues with the five-song Meet Your Maker suite. This section of the album chronicles a man named Mason, who is lost in the desert. Each song is more desperate than the one before it, as Mason runs out of water and can only beg God for merciful rain.  "Here Comes the Sunburn" has a bluesy feel, with Eric Sanford lending his harmonica talents. Next is a deceptively upbeat-sounding tune called "Going My Way," in which the protagonist pleads for a ride from a camel, who he calls Joe (get it?). The playfulness of lyrics such as "It wouldn't bust your hump/to give me a tow in," and "Hey Joe.../Kippling says you got that hump/by blowing off the job/so 'scrutiating idle/how you got this far, I got no clue" belie Mason's dangerous situation. "The Crawl" appears on No Outlet as an instrumental, but will appear on the Meet Your Maker disc with lyrics, according to Elbel's website. In the instrumental version, however, one can visualize the painstakingly slow crawl into nowhere as Ginger Gonzalez' flute seems to blow in mourning for Mason. We finally see our hero rescued by mercy in "Miracle Rain," and "Bedouin Girl."

No Outlet concludes with three more songs, the last two of which are covers.  "Mouthful of Air" was originally recorded by Catherine Wheel, and the disc's closer is a nod to Gene Eugene as Elbel and Ping cover Adam Again's "Songwork," with Greg Lawless' signature lead guitar replaced with Sanford's blues harmonica, and Riki Michele's background vocals covered admirably by Carolyn Kay.

No Outlet is mostly stripped down, sometimes poppy, sometimes bluesy, and always interesting. Although the disc can stand on its own just fine, one looks forward to the "fully amped" and more fleshed-out full-length disc, Meet Your Maker.  Tim Brooks (formerly of Animator) will replace Elbel on vocals for the future record, so fans of Elbel and his new band, Ping will definitely want to have this precursor in their collections.

The proceeds of No Outlet will go to help Eugene's family and Habitat for Humanity.

Dave Kerschbaum 9/1/2001

I had been familiar with the work that Jeff Elbel had done in the past with Farewell To Juliet and had enjoyed it sufficiently enough to check out this debut project by his new band Ping. They had a tune on the Daniel Amos tribute disc, so I kind of knew what to expect. I can honestly say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable album. From what I understand, this is somewhat of a teaser for a fully electric project called Meet Your Maker, which is to be released sometime in the hopefully not too distant future. It was also recorded as a vehicle to raise money for the Gene Eugene Memorial Fund. Primarily an acoustic disc this album is chock full of great hooks, excellent licks and hot riffs. If these guys are this good unplugged I can't wait to hear them full power. This is one of the few albums that I have heard recently that have used the harmonica as a lead instrument outside of a blues context and Eric Sanford can really blow that harp. He could give Darrell Mansfield a run for his money any day of the week. The more I listen to this disc the more I get drawn in and find myself looking forward to the next one.

Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock 10/17/2001


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