Album: On This Day And All The Time
Review by Wildy Haskell
Neil Comess-Daniels has been reaching the hearts, minds and spirits of young adults and their parents for over thirty years. Guitar-in hand, the ordained Rabbi found a voice in song early on, enlightening and entertaining simultaneously while advancing a message of change for the world that is spiritual in origin but practical in reach. Comess-Daniels isn’t out to change your beliefs, but he does teach a message of improving the world around us in his songs while ranging widely through amusing little ditties with a moral for day-to-day life. Comess-Daniels is also active in social justice projects and interfaith activities. Bringing all of these qualities and interests to bare in his music, Neil Comess-Daniels released On This Day And All The Time in 2010, an entertaining folk music song cycle for children of all ages.
On This Day And All The Time opens with “Faces In The Mirror,” an entertaining exploration of self-awareness both as a natural course of development and as a reminder that actions have an impact on others. It’s an entertaining number with great energy and a fine way to open the album. “I’m A Whiner” brings near-professional level grousing into song in a humorous turn that’s catchy and fun. “Country Music” explores the genre from the perspective of a child who doesn’t share his parents love of it. Comess-Daniels manages to find a voice as a writer that is authentically young and honest. “I’m Sorry” displays the power of those two words, but goes further into the sort of personal outreach that drives human relationships. Centered in the desire to make people happy, the song speaks of an essential goodness that a parent would be proud to see in a child.
“These Things (I’d Like To Teach You)” is quite literally a collection of statements and advice that are good to remember in day-to-day life. As usual, Comess-Daniels speaks to his younger listeners in a voice and language that is universal, creating a wider audience for what he has to say. “Sometimes I Sing My Own Song” is a semi-spiritual tune about listening to your own heart with hints of a Greater Being concept swirling around the edges. The focus here is more the questioning that each of us does of the world around us, seeking out whether something greater exists. The song is well written and avoids the spiritual question fully by engaging it as a study of human experience, which by default may turn out to be its greatest argument.
“Happy” builds on the concept of reaping what you sow, indicating that happiness is to be found in making others happy. It’s a solid tune that’s a bit repetitive but forgivably so. “Your Grandpa Marched With Martin Luther King” celebrates King’s message of peace and social change through family ties and hard work. The gospel choir sitting in is excellent, and Neil Comess-Daniels may remind listeners a bit of Paul Simon on this number. “Second Fiddle” explores the emotions of a middle child who is well loved by his parents but still feels a little left out by siblings and events. Comess-Daniels humanizes the moment in sweet tones. “Listen” is about listening for the voice of God, the most openly song of faith on the disc, and yet the message is much more practical, playing it more as a voice of inspiration. The arrangement is a solid folk style, and the melody is sweet with its own inherent beauty.
“Use Your Words” is an anti-violence ballad with a powerful message. Once again Comess-Daniels speaks to his target crowd in words that are palatable but which also reach other generations with equal power and grace. “Long Before Yesterday And Way Before When” is something of a creation tale in music, re-casting the question of creation as a philosophical discussion about love in terms a child might understand. There’s a bit of magic in this tune, even if Comess-Daniels pushes at the structure of the song at times to fit his thoughts in the musical frame he’s built. “On This Day And All The Time” is a general message of love from parents to children. Comess-Daniels again revives thoughts of Paul Simon in his arrangement, a sweet song of adoration and hope for our children that is touching. Comess-Daniels takes a bow with “Goodnight”, a sweet lullaby born love, joy and hope for a better tomorrow.
On This Day And All The Time is a musical journey for kids of all ages born of heart and inspiration. Neil Comess-Daniels writes with a fine touch, capturing the perspective and emotional depth of a child in songs that help explore the world around us. Comess-Daniels relies on a blend of intellectual and spiritual philosophy to inform and recommend choices about everyday life in terms that both children and adults can understand and appreciate. The arrangements are solid and mostly fit well to the lyrics on the album. And if Comess-Daniels’ voice isn’t always pitch perfect, it certainly seems to fit perfectly in the songs he’s written. There are a couple of slow moments here, but Comess-Daniels takes a slightly more intellectual turn at children’s music. It works because it doesn’t overreach; speaking to children in terms they will understand.