David Celia, Organica
by Michelle Erica Green

If David Celia's Organica didn't declare -- in the liner notes -- that all songs had been recorded in his house on a Macintosh G4, I would not have suspected this was a home-grown project. The first solo project of Celia, a guitarist from the Toronto "rootsy-rock pop" band Invisible Inc., Organica has a more polished sound than Invisible Inc.'s 2000 release Poor Folks Welcome, though it's hard to pigeonhole in terms of genre. The guitars (acoustic and electric) are superb, the keyboards well-balanced, the percussion nicely understated. Celia could give other independent artists lessons on how to record and package their own music.

The lyrics, which range from corny to hilarious, work best when Celia doesn't force Big Folk Themes about brotherhood and truth, but uses his wit to get the message across. Though this is a debut CD, it's nostalgic in both theme and sound -- the most memorable songs have the spirit of '60s pop-folk with newer instruments. Celia has a strong voice yet seems to enjoy Dylanesque monotone-patter. He also doubles his vocal tracks and uses backing vocals so often that it's easy to imagine Peter, Paul and Mary performing the songs. Sometimes Celia sounds like Paul McCartney, sometimes like Joe Walsh.

Many songs on Organica make me think of the Beatles, though for very different reasons. "Faker Baker" makes its point about the need to be true to oneself with simplistic rhymes in a Love-Me-Do singsong: "And you know it's all a lie/It feels like part of you has died/Since the moment you first cried." The falsetto voice, aah ahh ahhs and unexpected minor notes of "Strawberry Fields" creep into Celia's "Procrastination," a wry and clever look at a stagnating life.

Then there's the deceptively childish "He's A Caterpillar," which is reminiscent of "Fool on the Hill," a song that also has a melody that seems far too upbeat for its anti-social subject. The rhythm of Celia's phrasing reminds me of Lennon-McCartney ballads. "Warm Fuzzy" shares thematic elements with "With A Little Help From My Friends." Celia's colleagues from Invisible Inc. back him up, and their enthusiasm is infectious, so the song really does feel warm and fuzzy.

But quick-catch rhymes aren't always good things. "Don't Keep it All Inside" has constipated lyrics: "The look upon your face/I never could erase/Puts everything in place." "Evolution," overflowing with oversimplified "we could be as one" sentiments, is redeemed by its music -- a catchy, soaring melody for voice, guitar and organ that echoes "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." The cleverest lyrics emerge in "Dante," a tune about the singer's dog with yee-hahs and harmonica. Anyone who has ever adopted a pet is certain to appreciate it.

Three instrumentals permit Celia's musical talent to shine without the distraction of lyrics. "The Wind" is superlative -- two beautifully arranged guitar tracks that aren't fast or showy, but smooth and precise. "Growin' Owen" also features terrific guitar, well-balanced with drums and keyboard. The CD's final track, "Lucas," begins with a lullaby played on a wind-up music box, followed by an acoustic nocturne that reminds me of David Qualey's music.

Celia is already a superb musician who doesn't seem afraid to take risks; one hopes he'll become more consistent lyrically and grow into a first-rate singer-songwriter.

Celia's web site.

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