Album Review: HELLO, CRUEL WORLD! (Nick Balaban)

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by Tony Frankel on November 3, 2021



Nick Balaban is just now releasing his his debut album Hello Cruel World! (available now), which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Never heard of him? Well, neither did I.

This Zelig of the music world has gigged with the likes of James Taylor, Carly Simon, Percy Sledge, Barrington Levi, Alton Ellis, Sugar Minott, Davis Rogan and many other disparate acts, and recorded with folks from Ray Charles to David Murray to Macy Gray to Randy Travis to Phoebe Snow to India.Arie to Toni Braxton to The Persuasions to Speedball Baby. Heard of of Blue’s Clues (Nick, Jr.), Word World (PBS) and Bubble Guppies (Nick, Jr.)? Nick wrote and produced the music for these classics as well as performed as the voice of ‘Mr. Salt’ on Blues Clues. He’s also written and produced the soundtracks to various adult TV shows and documentaries, such as Michael Moore’s TV Nation and Dateline’s “Sex Slaves.” Balaban played several roles in the pre-Broadway Fringe Festival’s Urinetown and in the early 90’s, toured the world as “Nick Danger” with classic reggae superband Culture.

Listen to Hello Cruel World!, a sonic treat mixed by Nathaniel Reichman (Philip Glass, John Luther Adams) and though it is a collection of band-based “singer/songwriter” songs, Balaban’s arrangements employ a variety of instruments — sitar, tablas, string quartet, horns, woodwinds, cuatro, and lots of percussion and features world-class musicians with a bevy of musical stylings from the likes of Lincoln Goines, Robby Ameen and Nicky Skopelitis.

The songs are a cacophony of indie, jazz, raga, soul, cha-cha r&b and more; the lyrics are allegorical literature that will endure through the ages. And let’s not downplay the cover artwork and some terrific liner notes.

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