PRESS FOR HOTCAKES
Multi-instrumentalist Max Highstein resides in New Mexico, a land of enchantment and folkloric tales. On his latest album, Hotcakes, Highstein traverses an easy-listening and adult-contemporary rock sound highlighting his saxophone and, this time, employing his vocals on four of the tunes. Hotcakes also features Ed Willet on cello and Mark Clark on drums. Judy Mitchell adds accordion, and guitarist Jeff Pevar lends his guitar on the final tune, “First Day Out.”
“Low Hanging Fruit” kicks off the album with a funky-soulful vibe that eases the listener into the tropical delight. The musicians gel into a zone locking into a hypnotic groove that transports, while Highstein colorizes with his saxophone, organ, and bass. Sounds of the tropics are evoked by drummer and percussionist Mike Clark, while a droning accordion adds to the driving force by Judy Mitchell. [Correction: Judy Mitchell does not play on the song, Low Hanging Fruit.- Max H.]
The title track, “Hotcakes,” has a sit-down and have a drink at Cheers kind of vibe. I could easily see this tune as a theme song to a TV sitcom. Equally, “Diner” was also in this vein, though Highstein vocally tackles this one. Highstein approaches his vocals in a 70s soft rock ilk.
“First Day Out” closes out the album with a sunny attitude towards first adventures and the strong fortitude to stick it out. Highstein offers this tune up once again as a vocal selection. More of a singer-songwriter vocal style, his timbre offers a more bucolic quality. Of note, on this track, Ed Willett lays down tasty cello. I also found this tune to have a soundtrack appeal overall.
Hotcakes highlights Highstein’s ability to capture the sunnier side of soft-rock, with an almost 70s vibe similar to the British group 10cc when they captured the airwaves in the mid-70s with “I’m Not In Love.” Highstein might just be bringing back the 70s with a strong inkling. If you like your music with a positive message, Highstein is the repeat listen.
Staccatofy Review - Eliana Fermi
New Mexico-based artist Max Highstein continues to be as prolific as ever. His affinity for multi-instruments is a cornerstone of his unique sound. His latest offering is titled, Hotcakes. The album is a scrumptious cornucopia of treats and delights. Joined by Ed Willett: Cello, Judy Mitchell: Accordion, Jeff Pevar: Guitar on “First Day Out,” Mark Clark: Drum Kit, and Congas. Highstein focuses on a mellow sound that keeps your foot tapping throughout.
“Low Hanging Fruit” has a deep groove that invokes a multi-layered approach with memorable hook lines that repeat and deepen with each passing. Highstein is front and center on saxophone on this one; his note choices for his soloing and commentary are superb. It must also be stated that Highstein plays organ on this cut, and the swampy groove created is palatable in its essence and track namesake.
As my appetite grew for the album, I could not leave out “Hotcakes.” A poppy smooth-jazz tune that once again settled into an infectious groove that was very satisfying. Highstein, with guitar in hand, stirs up the buttery goodness with a groovy solo, then jumping onto the saxophone, he heats up the griddle with bends and curves that add up to a memorable melodic solo. But, wait, what ok, Highstein does not stop there; he then jumps onto the ivories, and spins out a whirling guitar solo. Next, the man of many instruments injects an organ solo. Oh wow, are you feeling hungry yet? This musical chef is serving it up.
Hotcakes, the album has a lot to offer, too much to cover in one review. So, my advice, take a spin yourself with any of the online outlets and get your cup of mojo, sweets, and treats and put this one on repeat.
5 Finger Review - Bea Willis
Max Highstein is a songwriter based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who is releasing his latest album, Hotcakes. With a combination of instrumental and vocal selections, Highstein brings new sonics to his pop-rock-styled music with saxophone playing and singing. He also surprises on guitar, handily laying down smooth solos and propelling backing rhythms on several tracks. In addition, four tunes are vocal pieces with catchy lyrics and a personable, rich delivery.
“Big TV (Live)” is a fusion of rock meets Latin rhythms, with Highstein’s light vocals leading the way. The lyrics are playful and paint a relatable picture. His saxophone is expressive and pairs with his vocal style. Highstein’s addition of vocal backgrounds and influences for a wide range of musical sounds gives this song much appeal. Ed Willet on cello adds a unique color as Judy Mitchell adds charming and in-the-pocket accordion sounds too. [Correction: Judy Mitchell doesn't play accordion on Big TV. - Max H.]
“Diner” continues in the same vein as the before-mentioned song, with Highstein’s witty, almost comical lyrics leading us through a relatable storyline. The songwriting is well-structured and benefits from the many textures of instruments and broad influences. Again, Highstein’s saxophone takes his music past the typical singer-songwriter into a texture that adds a sophisticated element to his music.
Hotcakes is the perfect soundtrack for those mornings when you can barely get out of bed to make a hot beverage. Hotcakes is a magnetic recording that does not attempt to hide its rawness, ultimately resulting in a very personal listening experience with both instrumental and vocal gems.
Rudy Palma, All About Vocals