Concept Albums Take Us Thru The Pandemic.. Remember Jacob Brandt?

You have heard “Un-Block The Music” say it before…it is fascinating to watch the growth of music from inception to release. So, I am really excited to announce the availability of 1969:The Second Man, a concept album by Jacob Brandt. When I started the blog a little over two years ago, Jacob was one of my earliest interviews. At the time, his show of the same name was about to play an off-Broadway engagement. (https://unblockthemusic.blog/2018/08/28/jacob-brandt-takes-time-to-talk-about-his-folk-musical-1969-the-second-man-opening-tonight-in-new-york/).

“The Second Man” is Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who Jacob said, is “an overlooked historical figure.” Buzz Aldrin was the lunar module pilot on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission when he and Mission Commander Neil Armstrong became the first two people to land on the Moon. Neil was the first to walk, but “Buzz is equally important to that significant American moment, but did not receive the same glorification. I first became interested in that story because there is something universal about being overlooked. I have been thinking a lot about this music during shutdown. It deals with feeling alone within a collective experience. It’s that same strange balance that is going on in the world right now as well.”

Jacob said, “it had always been my intention to record this music as an album. I wanted to do that before the show even happened.” While still upholding the story the musical creates, Jacob wanted the music to sit alone as an album of indie folk songs. As entertainers have had some time to reflet in recent months, it seems as though folk music has taken a spotlight. That trickles over into musical theater as well where the styles of music that people respond to are being incorporated in theater (eg. Bob Dylan’s Girl From North Country). That genre of music is helpful in storytelling.”

Jacob likened his album to what Anais Mitchell did with Hadestown. Between 2006 and 2007, Anais staged performances of  the a musical based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Unsure what lay ahead for the stage musical, she decided to turn it into a concept album. Anais continued working on an expanded theatrical version of Hadestown as well, and in May 2016 the show debuted at New York Theatre Workshop. It eventually opened on Broadway and won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score 2019. It also won a Tony for Best Sound Design. (Check out my stories on winners Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz. Links are at the end of this story.)

Obviously “Un-Block The Music” is not the first to talk about the disconnect in pop music right now. With the exception of artists like Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, few artists are able to release songs that are part of a whole, but this is Jacob’s goal.  He was influenced by artists in the 1960s when folk music and concept albums were the norm, and that is another reason the music genre works for 1969: The Second Man.

Some of these songs were written as long ago as seven years, and it has been interesting to see the different twist in his writing as he has progressed as well. “It feels like the right time to release this music and no longer have it sit with me,” he said.

1969: The Second Man features Jacob on vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, ukulele and synth. Paris Ellsworth (who was part of the off-Broadway show) is on violin. Other musicians include: Robin Buyer on bass; Seth Eliser on drums: Jonah Scott on lead electric guitar on “Zero Gravity” and “The Call” and Mateus Falci on synth on “Moon Facts and Fictions.” The album is produced by Jacob and Robin Buyer.

If you liked this story, here are two others you might be interested in:

https://unblockthemusic.blog/2020/09/29/dear-evan-hansen-hamilton-hadestown-tina-nevin-steinberg-on-working-with-women-on-sound-as-a-conscious-decision/

https://unblockthemusic.blog/2020/04/15/hadestowns-jessica-paz-first-woman-to-ever-win-a-sound-design-tony-kicks-off-women-wednesdays/

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