The album starts with the title track A Beautiful End. The piano-based, mid-tempo rock song holds the middle between Snow Patrol and older Dishwalla material. Especially the chorus is exactly what you’d expect from Richards if you are familiar with his songwriting from the Dishwalla-era. The rich sound backed with strong vocals construct an epic track that only gets my hopes up higher for this CD.
Richards continues strong with I Will Give You Life. With empathic and emotionally laden vocals he slowly works towards a climax, adding layers along the way. The song is carefully constructed and well delivered. It’s a little different from what you’d expect with the samples and synths popping up in the song, but if you look through that, this song really has a lot of strong facets that deserve to be recognized. Ghost of Sorrow follows and while it’s a great song, it doesn’t stand out among the other songs on this album. The spheric song which has an epic feel reminscent of old-school U2 does too little to stick into the listener’s head for a long time. I do admit it’s a grower but more than anything it’s a Dishwalla song, not a J.R. Richards solo song.
I really dig this one. The Far End of Black isn’t too Dishwalla-ish and feels more original. The electro-acoustic feel of the song matches well with Richard’s phenomenal vocal presence and the arrangement of the song provides plenty of room to shine musically. The timing is great and the accents in the vocal arrangements are just perfect. Probably one of the album’s strongest tracks.
The upbeat sound in Clearwater works very well and instantly draws you into the song. Richards’ inviting vocals and good use of additional instruments create a song that is worthy of praise. It’s not especially catchy or anything, but it does leave a mark on the listener with its round melodic sound and the additional instruments (a la The Verve) also add to that effect.
At first I didn’t think that Person For You was that great a song, but when I started listening to it for real, it took my by surprise. It’s surprisingly catchy and the lyrics are very relatable. It would make a very decent radio single for J.R. Richards who could have something going for him here. The chorus is very radio-friendly and this song might be a good ticket into the college and mid-level club circuit for the upcoming tours.
Red Painted Walls is another pretty good song by Richards. I really dig the intro, which really leads into the song well and gets it off to a good start. The melodic vocals give the song very good sing-along possibilities and makes it THE candidate to become a radio single. It sure is my favorite off “A Beautiful End”. Only to be rivaled by the June Becomes July, which is up next. That song is also pretty symbolic for the review of this record as i started it in June and finished it in July. So as I was writing it, June literally became July. The infectious piano arrangement (slightly reminiscent of Five for Fighting) and the gentleness of the storyline and the vocals make this song stand out in the middle of all these strong songs on “A Beautiful End”. June Becomes July is a song that will gain Richards a large amount of fans, or at least it should.
Richards continues with another decent song, but while Never Forgotten doesn’t really have any flaws, it doesn’t really have too many very exciting sides either. It’s a good album song, but it doesn’t have a very lasting impression, but J.R. Richards makes up for that on the album’s final track. You’re The Only Way Home is a very musically diverse and enables this talented musician to show us all that he’s got. And it proves to be a lot. You’re The Only Way Home has that epic feel that a closer should have, but it also has a gentle side that gives you the feeling of a satisfying ending. It pulls the record together and leaves you with a nod of approval and a smile on your face.
It was already widely accepted that J.R. Richards is one of the better vocalists around and also that he’s a consistent and talented songwriter. He proved this while playing with Dishwalla. But he now proves he can stand on his own as well. “A Beautiful End” is a very solid debut that might not spark a major radio single yet, but the music is strong and once it captivates you there’s no way you’re gonna let go of this.