Rose’s Rant ‘N’ Roll

Try to think of Jack Kerouac walking around with the original ‘On The Road’ manuscript on a 120-foot roll of typewriter paper under his arm. He marched from publisher to publisher and faced numerous rejections, aching and struggling to get his work printed somewhere. Kerouac’s was an uphill battle that must have seemed quite hopeless. Al Rose is in a somewhat similar position, at the mercy of booking agents, club owners and record companies that don’t appreciate his work as much as they should. Most of us aren’t interested in unknown artists until someone else notices them first. Nonconformity is never an easy sell until after it has been properly packaged.

Sooner or later, somebody is bound to figure this one out. Al Rose is a platinum wordsmith who specializes in stacking realities one on top of another. His sublimely incoherent rant and roll sends images splattering like the paint on a Jackson Pollack canvas. His listeners are challenged to decipher the abstract lyrical content of his songs. Rose is a musical chameleon who sheds his skin to match the mood of his talking erasurehead. Whether riffin’ as a rocker, folkie, or jazzman, he unleashes a vast array of songs he stockpiled like ammunition in a musical bomb shelter.

Caffeinated madness is the name of the endgame being played. Rose’s dizzying use of the English vernacular has caused some to describe him as a jazz-folk artist. While bohemian in nature, the man is more Beat than Jazz. He owes a larger debt to Allen Ginsberg than to Miles Davis. Al Rose is a Beat poet trapped in a singer-songwriter’s body. His cerebral wordplay pushes the songs from the mainstream onto a road far less traveled. Two espressos for here, please, and let me just check my beret before we sit down.

His CD, titled Information Overload, is just that. Al Rose’s cup runneth over, brimming with fifteen songs that are often surreal and decidedly non-linear. His band, The Transcendos, is first rate, providing a sound foundation from which Al verbally freefalls, as is his wont to do. “Headache heartache emotional bedsores – It’s denial of the fittest with a tailor made view”, Rose moans during his stream-of-consciousness sing-a-long, “All Make Out”. The all-out diatribe in “Slice Of Life” perfectly evokes the emotional crosstown traffic jam we’ve all had at one time or another. You will be both amused and horrified when you determine he’s singing about an imminent, deadly plane crash in the buoyantly sardonic, “We’re Going Down.”

Al Rose is a trance-former when he plays live. There’s an elasticity to his compositions which stretch like silly putty and evolve differently almost every time he performs. The songs come across no matter what the line-up may be. He fronts a rocking quartet, a subtler trio and various acoustic duos. His guitar playing is quite distinctive after playing countless solo gigs. The lucid interplay between his voice and guitar displays Rose at his most meditative. Musing over a forgotten detail of someone else’s past life, his private thoughts brew until they’re ready for public consumption. He’s naked for all to see. It’s not always a pretty sight, but certainly a pure and honest one.

Al Rose’s circumstance is an age old dilemma. When it comes to musicians, Mother Chicago almost always eats its young. Nice Jewish boys like Steve Goodman and Mike Bloomfield had to search all over the Windy City to unearth their roots, and they’re both dead. Al Rose sounds nothing at all like those artists and anyone else I can think of, either. It’s tough on the road when you’re going against the grain of society. It makes me think of soul renegades like Dean Moriarty. I think of young Dean Moriarty and his partner in time, Sal Paradise, I think of Dean Moriarty.

— Mitch Myers, Manhattan Mirror, August 1995