The Odd Get Even: Happy Critters
The Odd Get Even is a collaborative project between Bill Cornish and Bill Ray, two remarkably talented performers. Cornish has made a name for himself in recent years with excellent instrumental records such as 2013’s ‘Kaleidoscope,’ an album that highlighted his keyboard skills accented by a top notch backing band. Ray has been touring as a professional drummer for years; his discography is extensive and includes a Grammy-winning record. On 2014’s ‘Happy Critters,’ the two combined their skills to record an album that’s quite funky and fresh.
If you’ve dabbled at all in Cornish’s discography, then ‘Happy Critters’ won’t be entirely foreign to you. It has elements of ‘Kaleidoscope,’ the album he put out a year prior. With that said, the inclusion of Ray into the mix provides a stark contrast to his previous work. The two combine into a magnificent force of instrumental strength unlike anything I’ve heard.
If the music that you’re writing (or improvising) includes percussion, your recording or performance is only going to be as good as your percussionist. A good drummer makes a world of difference and that element of a solid record is often overlooked. Ray isn’t a flashy drummer, but man, he’s on fire on this record. Listen to the song ‘No Borders’ and ignore the prominent electric guitar riffing, synthesizers, and organ. Behind that is an unbelievably fantastic drum track. Every song is like that in its own regard.
While still excellent, Cornish’s studio work felt a bit like quality backdrop music to me. It didn’t throw itself into the middle of the road to stop me in my tracks. ‘Happy Critters’ enamors me in that sense, because it absolutely does. That great percussion backing grouped with the zany and funky keyboard performances results in a mesmerizing listening experience. I love it, and in my opinion, that culminates in tracks like ‘Ocean Breeze,’ my personal favorite on the album.
‘Happy Critters’ is so well done; I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s the best indie instrumental record I’ve reviewed in months and is a poignant statement about the status of good instrumental jamming: it’s alive and well. Cornish and Ray are an irresistible match made in heaven.