Dave Nachmanoff returns with his first album in five years, with 'Step Up', produced by Ronan Chris Murphy, featuring musicians Bob Malone (currently playing keyboards for John Fogerty), Ian Sheridan (former bassist for Jason Mraz) and Victor Bisetti (former drummer for Los Lobos), and vocalists Al Stewart, Rosemary Butler, John Wicks, and Liz Bligan. "Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted." - Napoleon Bonaparte, by way of Al Stewart On the face of it, one might not think that a 19th century general (and occasional emperor) would have much advice to offer to a 21st century singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. And there you would be wrong. Because after nearly two decades of making records, and a not inconsiderable amount of boots-on-the-ground reconnaissance in front of audiences all around the world, Dave Nachmanoff decided to make some changes, not only to what he recorded, but the very way he decided to approach the recording process. The result is Step Up. Not to stretch the military campaign theme too far, Nachmanoff's first order of business was to find a general - known in the record industry as producers - and he gained a capable ally in Ronan Chris Murphy. On the face of it, Murphy seems an unlikely fit; after all, he cut his teeth in the Washington DC punk scene and has worked with the likes of King Crimson and former Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse, all areas fairly removed from Nachmanoff's wheelhouse. But after some pre-production discussion about the shape and sound of the new album, the two realized they were on the same page, musically speaking . . . if perhaps coming at it from different directions. With a limited budget and a sensibility that both musician and producer wanted to capture the energy that Dave brings to the stage live, Murphy advised his new collaborator that, "It's gonna have some bumps and bruises, but that's okay." Bumps and bruises might be overstating it; Step Up simply sounds more like an album that hasn't been so overdubbed, overworked, and overpolished that all it's edges have been sanded away. It aims for the sweet spot that embraces all of the elements in the so-called "AAA" sound: an Adult Album Alternative. That's part of what makes a simple description elusive, as it reimagines and recombines elements from all of Nachmanoff's influences, from Fountains of Wayne to Jellyfish to Al Stewart to the Records. Speaking of the latter two, both the Records' lead vocalist, John Wicks, and longtime Nachmanoff cohort Stewart appear on the new album. "John was friends with some of my friends on Facebook," says Dave, "so I reached out to him. I was totally blown away by his vocals." Wicks appears on three of the album's tracks, bringing that shimmering pop sensibility he so energetically displayed on the Records' "Starry Eyes" at the dawn of the New Wave era. Al Stewart turns in a co-lead vocal on the album's second track, "Sheila Won't Be Coming Home," a song that he co-wrote with Nachmanoff and which has become a regular part of Stewart's recent tour set. As much as Dave has been looking forward, he wasn't afraid to reach back into his past for a few songs, such as "Descartes In Amsterdam" and "Not What I Expected," originally recorded earlier in his career. Both studio technology and Nachmanoff's vocal and instrumental prowess have taken multiple steps forward in the intervening years, and the reworked "covers" fit in seamlessly with the album's more recently-written repertoire. In fact, there's only one track on the whole album that Dave didn't write (or co-write), and that's his take on Counting Crows' "Rain King." While Nachmanoff's version is slightly less insistently propulsive, it retains the original's edge, and producer Murphy, in Dave's words, "came up with a great groove." That might, after all, be a pretty decent way to describe Step Up: a great groove. Or, as Dave puts it, "There are CDs and there are records. This is my first real record." With Step Up as a calling card, Nachmanoff may well find audiences stepping up themselves to do a little reconnaissance of their own.