There is mixed opinion on Mr. Ott derived from rumour or his book (which I've never seen let alone read). Putting abhorrence aside, this is music so excuse my dyslexic ramblings and try and make heads and tails on what I think of this record.
There seems to be this burst of front men wanting to do solo acoustic records, is it that they feel people don't understand there feelings unless they go back in time to acoustic rock? That may be the case, but, more likely it could be that this outlet gives an expression to do something different and to be more personal to the listener without the worry the barrage of distortion drowning out the point. However there is little different from Fifteen's acoustic songs to Jeff's solo record, but if you liked Fifteen's acoustic songs and want more then this is the record for you.
It is a musically astute attempt with consistent and elegant musicianship but the songs all seem to merge to one with similar riffs and appriggo's and by the end you find it hard recollecting some of the songs. They play through mellow and in some respects (this depends on your social situation and personal viewpoint) informative.
However, and maybe this is a bone of contention, his voice. In Fifteen I tolerated it, liking it someday and some days not, and then I realised he is trying to 'sing' on this and not be Jeff Ott that we know from Fifteen. On Fifteen songs like 'my congressman' or 'punksong' he sings the song with the vigour the song deserves, on this record he seems to fall into a choirboy trap many people get when they sing over an acoustic guitar. This problem is trying too hard on his vocals and not allowing it to naturally flow, which may come from rehearsing the songs without a microphone over an acoustic guitar, on occasions it works like on 'once upon a time' but other times it seems like warbling and the point of the song occasionally gets lost a little in translation.
Some songs have a perfect tempo for the tone of the song and others a nice beat. I feel this could have been enhanced greatly, and added another level and dimension, with some extra musicians and maybe more backing and a little more velocity, c'mon guys it can be done on an acoustic guitar.
Lyrically he weaves a tale verging on too narrative and in cases can be questioned, such as in 'jux' he lays claim that we don't care about catching male to male rapists for the fear of being called a homophobe (now this concept may change place to place and situation to situation but the term 'rape' immediately overrides any phobias in the face of it's disgust), having said that there still is, tragically, this notion in the world (not as widespread as is thought) that gay people will go after anything and turn to rape to get there fix, like a heroin addict beating up old ladies for money for there fix, these are not the case. Many songs have similar tales between these songs and to old ones, for example the song '9-11' seems like a updated version of 'land mine' and '$1.78' (which has a very similar rhythm to 'like a rolling stone') is similar also; Heroin has the same safety tips as in 'my congressman' which are very vital and that repetition is needed and welcomed and give the record some more depth outside of the melody and rhythms. The lyrics range from personal insights to homelessness, life in the USA (who's your daddy, victory is mine), social issues (white pride, Forever) and addictions to stimulants (Heroin) to the current affairs situation seemingly derived from numerous NGO's and a shot of Chomsky or Blum it appears. Much of the insight is kind of vague and is information that is widely known, especially to the types of people to buy from a man who isn't even on the periphery of mainstream music (or political thought). Other songs, like $1.78 put an interesting spin on how to explain the war in Iraq is about oil. And it is important things that are being said, and if you think there is no room for his thought think that these views are his and the opposite of the constant barrage we do hear from popular sources, although it has became passe for bands to immediately look at this arena of thought if they are political (which explains where there aren't a great deal of political bands).
The second CD has an out-of-print number of songs notably from the Epythesial Union split (which I've not heard, I saw it on Amazon once for £18! Which explains why I didn't get it) which was acoustic versions of Fifteen songs, many from 'lucky' which do come out very good in mind of the originals. This collection is more up tempo and I find the songs in general more socially conscious than the first Cd having simple spoken instructions on how to stay safe during sex (Forever) and drug use (my congressman), but more importantly I find I can get into the songs easier and there is a little more variation and as simple as I can put it enjoy listening to it more, which sparks the question - should he have made 'will work for diapers' a few years earlier?
The cause is the ruckus society - so if you have a problem with his views you would be aiding people who are actively pressuring changes within governments and the world - and the CD gives good information about the cause and how it is established and grown, so we know where the money is going to.
The CD does give information on how to learn more form NGO's etc which comply with his songs and the times where he gives advice on safety are important, but these are things we should be taught at schools, not a Jeff Ott CD which in itself shows another element of social commentary.
This is not Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan, but is a very good attempt and further shows his music and lyrical ability. However I think this is a cd which may grow and I have been looking forward to this CD, and except for the weakerthans I don't look forward to CD's, and this may have effected my review positively or negatively depending on your stance on Fifteen.
I would give the first cd a 7, the second an 8, altogether an 8.