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Tony Lang Band 

Where to Begin (Budda Scuba Records)

Where to Begin couldn't have arrived at a better time. Chock-full of 15 radio-ready selections that run the gamut from toe-tapping to head-banging, the Tony Lang Band's second effort safely dodges the sophomore slump and presents the next phase in the band's evolution.

Not that Lang's material ever wanted for maturity. Usually spun from the perspective of your average twenty- or thirtysomething everyguy, the recurring themes include relationships (good and bad), reflections on the past, and odes to the here-and-now. Sound boring? Hardly. The tracks are energetic yet thoughtful, and seem equally well-groomed for both adult contemporary and alternative formats. Lang possesses one of those distinct voices that sounds made for a microphone. The musicianship is exemplary all around, and co-producer/engineer Mike Farona provides the Hollywood high gloss the songs deserve.

The band's crunchy, bright guitars and pop sensibility will draw comparisons to Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20, or Lifehouse. There are keyboard-basted acoustic gems ("Constant Reminder," "When We Were Young") and rock ballads ("Take From Me"). Grooves range from the tight and funky ("No Matter," "Gave") to the limber and spunky ("Time to Fly"). The occasional harmonica, organ, and squeezebox add some nice regional -- if not international -- flavor. "Sense of Gold" feels almost Celtic, with its spirit of wanderlust and melancholy.

The last thing anyone needs is another rock band doing another dark and dopey tribute to life's low points. Begin is a fun, refreshing antidote for such modern malaise.

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