Clandestinely somber and yet beholden to an upbeat swing as much as any melody ever could be, the piano part in “Waiting Round for You,” just like it is in the other songs in Paul Mark & the Van Dorens’ Gravity, essentially defines the track’s personality almost as much as Mark’s own voice does. Always by his side, like a friend who shares in the misery of a melancholic afternoon no matter how their own life is going, the keys in Gravity expound upon everything our storyteller shares with us from behind the microphone, and if you ask me, they deserve just as much of the credit when trying to decide why this record is the incredibly engaging effort that it irrefutably is.
“The Next Fight,” “You Can Take It with You,” “Con Man VIP” and “I Spin When You Grin” each feel like some of the more personal numbers Paul Mark has committed to master tape since recording Disposable Soul back in the day, but this isn’t to say that they somehow eclipse the other content here at all – nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, I see these songs as an example of his willingness to be vulnerable – which isn’t a given for anyone who has been in the business as long as he has. This is a collective effort alongside the Van Dorens, but at the end of the day, there’s not many a moment in which Mark doesn’t sound and feel like the most important piece of any song here.
Fluidity is important when listening to any tracklist in its entirety without interruption, and my gut tells me that Paul Mark was thinking about this when he was structuring the songs in Gravity. The gothic “Coronation” bridges “The Night Fight” and “Con Man VIP” with the same seamlessness we find between the verses in “O T B” connect with each other despite being separated by harmonies as big as slivers of heaven itself. “Forever” sets a tone we revisit much later with “December at the P.O.,” and by the time we’ve made it through the whole album, it’s more like we’ve experienced a progressive performance than simply listened to a collection of songs that someone compiled over the course of a conventional studio session.
I’ve been loosely following Paul Mark & the Van Dorens for a while now, and while I had a lot of expectations coming into this review of Gravity, I was pleased to find all of them surpassed in tracks like “Friend Gone Astray,” “Gravity Is Failing” and the cover of “Heart Full of Soul,” one of my favorite songs on the record. Paul Mark is the consummate piano singer/songwriter here, and even though I don’t get the impression that this is some sort of farewell to the fans and the career he’s assembled for himself over the years, his experience in this medium is evident from all angles. Gravity is a slam dunk, and for this artist, another highpoint in a storied campaign.