Steve Oliver: Positive Energy

Smooth-jazz guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver says that his music is about making people feel good. Everything about his sophomore release, Positive Energy, reflects that philosophy, from the optimistic title to the primarily upbeat compositions to the CD’s postcard-pretty artwork, which depicts blue skies, flowers, placid water and Oliver playing his guitar on a sunny beach. This isn’t the most emotionally profound CD you’ll hear this year, but it’s a charming and easily likable one. With his dexterous playing, knack for creating catchy melodies and unusual, highly flexible vocal accents-which can range from scat to beatbox-Oliver has crafted an engaging collection of compositions.

Among Positive Energy’s standout tracks are the ebullient Latin-flavored dance numbers “High Noon” and “Festevo,” the Methenyesque “Horizon,” and the grooving title tune. But the album stumbles on the vocal tracks, “Show You Love” and “Come On Home.” Although Oliver turns in very pleasant vocal performances and both songs possess appealing melodies, they are burdened with platitudinous and cliched lyrics, particularly “Come On Home” (sample lyric: “Doesn’t matter if the sun don’t shine/Wouldn’t matter if there are hills to climb/Because in between the lines that we draw there is me and you”). The album includes an instrumental version of “Show You Love,” featuring snappy saxophone from Brandon Fields, that reveals how strong the tune is without the lyrics.