Tony Koretz Rocks Out
Tony Koretz is a man with a mission: to bring rock 'n' roll back to the table. Since first picking up the guitar at the age of 16, the New Zealand musician, singer, songwriter, and audio engineer has written and released music that just plain smokes with rock'n'roll fervor and passion, the latest collection of which can be heard on his 2004 release, Kicking Cans (Rocksure Soundz). Written, sung, and almost completely played by Koretz himself, with a little help from his brothers Nathan, Marcel, and Simon.
"My whole family is musical," says Koretz about the familial line-up on the album. "Dad is a jazz pianist with a great feel, and Mum played a bit too. I am the oldest of seven kids, and we are all musicians. We help each other out with our music projects, and I admire the musical talent in the other members of the family. There are not many instruments that someone amongst us all can't play." A couple of the keyboard tracks on the album were contributed by a friend, Matt Schmidt, but otherwise, this is entirely a Koretz boys project.
"I wanted to be the next Jimmy Page or Ritchie Blackmore," says Koretz about his musical upbringing. "When I was 16 years old, I took up the guitar and saved up really hard to buy a nice acoustic guitar. It was an Australian handcrafted Maton, which I still love, as it has such a nice tone-it's the one I used on Kicking Cans. I decided early on that playing rock music was what I really wanted to do, so I bought a good instrument to start with and began practicing really hard." He adds, "I never had any aspirations to be a vocalist at first, but I found I enjoyed singing while playing, so my music evolved into the singer, songwriter, musician format that I have today."
Listening to Koretz's work, you can almost see where his musical roots spring from. There's definitely a '70s guitar rock sound and feel to these songs, with classic prog rock influences like Yes, Styx, and Queen mixed into the musical notation. There's also a warm garage rock/bar band feel to the music, too, that makes the songs instantly accessible and intimate. There's such a strong, live sound to the album that one wonders how Koretz can work well when confined in a studio.
"I love recording, but sometimes I like to get out and play live too," he says. "I go through phases. I might do a series of shows for a time, and then I re-trench in the studio and don't go out and play for a while. I find gigging exhausting, and it's a bit of a love/hate thing for me." He adds, "If I had a road crew to set up and tear down the gear for me, and a regular committed band, I would probably tour and play more."
Kicking Cans definitely has a classic, guitar-heavy rock sound to it, with great hooks and melancholy keyboard riffs. Lyrically, Koretz's subject matter includes everything from the problem of world hunger and political oppression to that old standard called "love."
In fact, one of the best songs on the album, is a love song: the opening track, "If Your Love Was A River." In this, Koretz sings, "If your love was a river/I'd dive right in/If your love was a river/I don't know if I'd sink or swim," all set against a background of fast-paced, prog rock guitar riffs and a wonderful, melodic chorus. Another stand-out tune on this is the title track, "Kicking Cans," where Koretz sings about "Coke cans, garbage cans, headphone cans, baked bean cans, can't cans, won't cans, tin cans..." - basically, it's about the refusal to settle for less than exactly what one wants out of life. Another great song, "Come Back Baby," takes the album into slightly different musical territory, with Koretz pulling out the acoustic blues licks in the beginning and blowing into full rockin' electric blues by the end.
The album's a fun ride all the way through, happy and hopeful and upbeat without being vapid or sappy-instead. This is upbeat music that sounds as though it's being delivered by a voice of experience, someone determined to not be brought down, not matter how tough things are.
"I get tired of music where people are always angry, hateful or negative," says Koretz of his music. "Life is tough for a lot of people, and crappy stuff happens, but I don't think it helps anyone to have bitter twisted music hammered into their ears day in day out. I like to be real in my music. If I'm hurting I'll say so, but I always try and look at things from a perspective that should produce hope rather than a spiral into anger or depression. I have a faith in God that underlines my everyday thinking. I believe in looking for solutions and keeping as positive as I can, even in the dark times, so I try to portray that in my music."
He adds, "If I can encourage people to pursue their dreams against all odds, hold onto hope when all seems lost, help others in need and love 'all out' even if it costs, then I will have achieved something. But hey, in all honesty, as a musician, I would love people to enjoy the music, tap their feet, close their eyes, nod their heads in time to the beat, and play some air guitar when their mum or girlfriend ain't looking."
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