“All One,” the leadoff track for Palace and Stage, the sophomore effort from Orange County’s Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, almost overwhelms the listener with a tidal wave of sound. The electric violin and synthesizer parts are Camper Van Beethoven, while the soaring guitars, beating drums, and tambourine call to mind Thin Lizzy. By the time the wood blocks and “woo-hoo” chorus are added to the mix, lead singer Dustin Apodaca has to resort to shouting to make himself heard.
There is something to be said for combining the best parts of one’s musical influences to create something new and exciting, but Dusty Rhodes and the River Band have traveled one step too far down the path. In trying to be everything at once, Palace and Stage becomes scattered and hard to follow rather than inventive or even novel.
And it’s a shame really, because the individual parts of the album are all very good. The guitar hook on the opening track is very sharp but ends up being lost under all the other instruments and effects piled on top of it. This problem compounds the vocal track on the album, as many lyrics are lost behind a morass of loud playing. Dusty Rhodes and the River Band faces a problem common to bands with layered instrumentation in that on most tracks each member has to have something to do. Even if a song doesn’t necessarily need two guitars, there are two guitar players playing. A notable exception on Palace and Stage is “So Low,” where band violinist Andrea Babinski delivers a sweet vocal over minimal (by the album’s standards) accompaniment. Though making a lot of noise is one way to be heard, more of these moments would have been appreciated.