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CD REVIEW: Simplified's Brighter Days 

THE DEAL: Charlotte quartet releases its third studio effort, produced by O.A.R. saxophonist Jerry DePizzo.

THE GOOD: From the opening riff of "Shall We Begin," Simplified lets you know this album has a different sound than previous albums. Though they've had a few residencies in Key West, the laid-back beach vibe of earlier efforts has given way to something a bit more pop. Singer Clee Laster's vocals are stronger than ever — exhibiting more range, a bit more rasp and more emotion than the stoner vibe he gave off in the past. The piano-drive rock of the title track leads toward the reggae-infusion of "Sitting on a Mountain" and "My Life," glimpses at the sound of previous albums. The band finds its way back into acoustic-driven tunes from time to time, lending itself to the diversity of the band's overall sound.

THE BAD: Took a bit of time, but the 12 tracks presented here in just over 45 minutes were worth the wait. The chorus of "Angel" leans on the border of being cheesy and a bit TV theme song, but avoids it for the most part.

THE VERDICT: The tunes from Elephant Sky have grown to be so familiar that it takes some time to adjust to change. The songs here are well-crafted, easy-going rock tunes that will quickly get established in the Simplified catalog.

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