Bjorn Riis – Everything to Everyone (2022)
The new album by Bjorn Riis, known as the guitarist of the Norwegian band Airbag, is the first album of his that I have purchased. Certainly not because of the boring cover. I think Airbag is a nice band and I have several CDs from them, but the whiny voice of Asle Tostrup bothers me a bit. I know, matter of taste. The music, which leans heavily towards Pink Floyd, is especially enjoyable because of the wonderful solos by Riis, which are very similar to David Gilmour's with even some extras.
The question of the vocals has been solved because Riis sings himself and that is not necessarily very good but a bit less disturbing than with Airbag. Moreover, Mimmi Tamba sings along on a few songs and that is a good choice.
Why don't I own his previous albums? Of course I've listened to them and I'm really impressed by Bjorn's beautiful guitar playing, but I usually don't find the compositions exciting enough. So now I bought Everything to Everywhere because I read that he brought more variety to the songs and after listening to a few samples wanted to give it a try. ( as you might know I'm not a big fan of streaming and like to support by buying )
After many listens, I'm not completely convinced. Yes, he plays fantastic again, and yes, there has certainly been an attempt to put some spice in the songs, but that doesn't always work out well. Opener Run is an instrumental piece with quite a rocking slant but it doesn't stick. The long Lay Me Down has very nice moments and has the atmosphere that I love so much and is a typical Riis song for me. For a change, Riis has regularly taken up the acoustic guitar and so The Siren opens with calm chords and the guitar solos quickly follow, creating the aforementioned atmosphere again. It's a great listen, but it does start to catch your eye that everything is in the service of the guitar work. Not surprising, but that does mean that the rest of the instruments have little input and are a bit boring here and there. Of course I understand that a solo album by a guitarist often revolves around this instrument, but that's the reason why I don't often get excited about these kinds of albums, while I am very guitar-minded. But I just miss some interaction with keyboards or vocals and a more present rhythm section is often nice to hear.
Don't get me wrong, this album has a very nice atmosphere and it has undoubtedly been worked on with a lot of love and attention and will certainly please many listeners. The occasional heavy eruptions are definitely a plus and do the music well. There are two additional tracks on this disc. An alternative version of the title track that doesn't deviate too much from the original and could therefore have been left out for me. The previously released Desolate Place which, as the title suggests, is about the situation during the Covid crisis, is another lingering song with at the end………, you guessed it, a guitar solo.
I find it difficult because I always go for music with a lot of guitar work (read solos) which must radiate a certain atmosphere. So in that respect I'm fine with Everything to Everyone. The somewhat humble lyrics also fit the music perfectly. Loneliness and alienation are themes that fit seamlessly with the songs on this album. Apparently I miss the presence of a fine vocalist and I expect a bit more from the keyboards than a background carpet.
For fans of Airbag and Riis' earlier solo work, Everything to Everyone is a risk-free purchase. And for the streamers I would say give it a try and maybe it will touch you because the album does have that potential. I don't think I will go back to this album very often and rather choose the first Airbag albums and take the vocals into the bargain.