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Pure magic from the beach

On an Island
On an Island
By Charlie Imes

Self-released: 2008

Buy it on CD now from

This review first appeared in the October 2, 2008 issue of the North County Times.

Not many self-released albums are as polished, as fully realized as this new one from San Diego's Charlie Imes. Then again, not many unsigned artists can bring in former members of Paul McCartney's old band, Wings, nor assemble an all-star roster of San Diego's best musicians.

But having Laurence Juber sit in on guitar would have been a waste if it was the high point of the album. Instead, with the rich warmth of Imes' singing voice, as well as the utter confidence he displays in his singing – and the wealth of strong songs Imes and guitarist David Beldock have written – Juber's contribution is what it should be: icing.

Besides, while Juber is the best-known name on this collection, he's not necessarily the best player, nor even the best picker. Dennis Caplinger, well-known on his own to local audiences for his many appearances in the stage bands of various musicals at the Welk Resort Theatre, lays down some mean lines on mandolin and banjo. Mike Spurgat, lead guitarist for local rockers Deadline Friday, is no slouch either.

The roster is rounded out by other local standout players like Bill Coomes (drums), also a member of Deadline Friday (and the Citizen Band), bassist Rob Thorsen, guitarist Jim Soldi and trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. Background and other vocals are provided by Cindy Lee Berryhill, Cathryn Beeks, Barbara Nesbitt and Amy Mayer, each of whom has one or more superb records of their own.

As mentioned above, Imes is a strong, confident singer, utterly polished in his delivery and quiet showmanship. There's more than a striking resemblance to Jimmy Buffett in both his voice and his style (as well as a cover of Buffett's "Stranded on a Sandbar"). At the same time, Imes is enough of his own person to never come off as a wannabe: Buffett has never worked so much jazz into his music, for starters, nor the Hawaiian themes Imes blends in. And Imes has more of a storytellers' approach to his delivery.

While this is SoCal beach music through and through, Imes still changes things up stylistically on a regular basis, which keeps the album an intriguing listen: "Sittin' Here" (which Imes paints as a nod to Burt Bacharach in his liner notes) has a kind of lounge feel to it, while "Summer Days" starts off with an R&B groove, and "Second Chance" is a blues.

This is just a wonderfully melodic collection from a gifted singer and songwriter with top-notch production from Jeff Berkley, another member of San Diego's music royalty.