Give It All Away

Give It All Away

4.7 7
by Ben Jelen
     
 

This 24-year-old singer-songwriter has been anointed the third person in a pretty-face/pretty-voice trinity started by John Mayer and Jason Mraz, a billing he lives up to on this major-label bow. Jelen's winsome voice -- which recalls early Todd Rundgren on songs like the beckoning See more details below

Overview

This 24-year-old singer-songwriter has been anointed the third person in a pretty-face/pretty-voice trinity started by John Mayer and Jason Mraz, a billing he lives up to on this major-label bow. Jelen's winsome voice -- which recalls early Todd Rundgren on songs like the beckoning "Come On" -- is his biggest calling card, but he's also got a few aces up his musical sleeve. He plays one -- a surprisingly deft touch on violin -- on the melancholy "Setting of the Sun" and proves equally winning in his choice of covers, as borne out by a moody rendering of "Wicked Little Town" (from the rock musical Hedwig & the Angry Inch). A good bit of Give It All Away is given over to sugary pop balladeering, best illustrated by the overly fluffy, Elton-esque "Every Step," but when Jelen seizes the reins more forcefully, as on the soulful "She'll Hear You," he reveals both charisma and a solid set of pipes. That's more than enough reason to agree not to hate him just because he's beautiful.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ben Jelen means well. He's a pretty, earnest, young singer/songwriter, whose sincerity oozes from every track of his polished debut, Give It All Away. Produced largely by the Berman Brothers, with a couple of cuts helmed by the Matrix and a track by Eve Nelson plus a handful of other producers, the album attempts to turn Jelen into an immediate superstar, a male spin on the sensitive female singer/songwriter who rose up in the wake of teen pop in the early 2000s. He seems tailor-made for the role -- he's very good-looking and has a sweet voice, so he's easy to turn into a pinup star for teenagers too old and hip for Clay Aiken, and he has a transparent emotional streak to shame Chris Carrabba. Musically, he's a curious blend of Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Take That's Gary Barlow, crossed with Coldplay, whose intro for "Clocks" he cops on "Give It All Away." He sounds most comfortable on ballads, since it gives him the best platform for his earnestness, but they're hurt by their lack of tunefulness and po-faced sensibility. Like emo rockers, Jelen's defining characteristic is his emotionalism and sensitivity, and that fuels his music, whether it's on the ballads or the midtempo pop tunes with vague radio-ready dance beats, either provided by the Bermans ("Every Step") or the Matrix, who struggle to rein him in to their signature sound with "Christine" and "Stay," but can't overrule his formless sincerity. At times his earnestness is appealing, and Give It All Away illustrates that he has a likable voice and some solid musical ideas, but the album is brought down by an effort to make Jelen into something bigger than he is -- that is, a star. His songs are designed for a small scale and they would sound better unadorned, since the production overwhelms every cut here. Certainly, it's possible to hear his potential underneath that outsized production, but it takes effort. Ironically, instead of making Ben Jelen sound like a star right out of the box, the team of producers and concentration from the label make him seem smaller than life, which does a disservice to his music. He would likely make a bigger splash with a record much more simple and direct than this.
Entertainment Weekly - Raymond Fiore
A young Jackson Browne doppelgänger crooning like a Y-chromosomed Vanessa Carlton.

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Product Details

Release Date:
04/13/2004
Label:
Warner Bros Mod Afw
UPC:
0093624845522
catalogNumber:
48455
Rank:
263108

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ben Jelen   Primary Artist,Piano,Violin,Tambourine,Vocals
Steve Wolfe   Drums
Michael Bacon   Leader
Robert Chausow   Violin
Victor Indrizzo   Drums
Richard Locker   Cello
Andy Marvel   Bass Guitar,Electric Guitar
Eve Nelson   Keyboards
Paul Peabody   Violin
Laura Seaton   Violin
Mark Orrin Shuman   Cello
Richard Sortomme   Violin
Gerry Leonard   Electric Guitar
Igor Szwec   Violin
Ivan Bodley   Bass
Ruben Martinez   Vocals
Christian Berman   Bass,Guitar,Drums,Mellotron,Loops
Andrew Carillo   Guitar,Electric Guitar,Electric Sitar,Mando-Guitar
Jen Scaturro   Synthesizer
Corky James   Guitar
Gloria Justin   Violin
Kareem Devlin   Guitar
Wei Chu   Cello
Andrew Frawley   Dumbek,Drums,Djembe,Shaker
Isabel Jacobsen   Harmony
Jeff Allen   Bass

Technical Credits

Lauren Christy   Composer
Michael Bacon   String Arrangements
Andy Marvel   Producer,Engineer
Eve Nelson   Programming,Producer,Engineer
Graham Edwards   Composer
Dan Lawrence   Engineer
Joe Hogan   Engineer
Christian Berman   Programming
Dibs   Engineer
Ben Jelen   Composer,Engineer
Bernadette O'Reilly   Composer
Stephen Trask   Composer
Kevin Meeker   Drum Engineering
Scott Spock   Composer
Joseph Janus   Composer,Producer
Marc Spencer   Engineer
Luke Johnson   Composer

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