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Monday, 5 June 2017

Monday reviews #4 featuring Ray Davies, Matt Scott, Roger Waters and Little Steven

Roger Waters - Is this the life we really want?

It’s safe to say that in Roger Waters we do not have the type of artist who would call a spade a shovel.
The listener doesn’t have to dissect prose to reveal a hidden meaning in the songs he writes.
There’s nothing lurking between the lines, there’s no veneer that needs to be stripped away to allow us to clearly see the point he is making.
He is in the business of creating straight forward no nonsense story telling as an art form.
And that’s not to say that he is a meat and potatoes artist either.
Never think that.
Don’t even give that thought a moment’s headspace.
The bluntness of his delivery should never be construed as bland as it is far from it.
His music is always multilayered and thought provoking, but at the same time it also has to be accepted that if he wanted you to misunderstand what he was trying to convey then he wouldn’t have writ it so large before placing it directly in your line of vision and then shouting it in your face.
This is just what he does.
In so many ways he is closer to an art terrorist spray painting a statement on a wall than someone looking to engage in debate with you.
There’s a ‘here it is, fuckin’ take it or leave it’ attitude that seemed to come to the fore on Animals and has been prevalent throughout The Wall and Final Cut before continuing louder, stronger and more strenuously here.
He’s a force of nature in so many ways.
Bow to it, or break. That’s the deal.
And if you thought previous albums revelled in not drawing the eye away from the darkness in the world, then you better strap in for a bumpy ride as ‘Is this the life we really want?’ is pitch black, a raw howling primal scream into the void at the idiocy of our existence.
We are sheep led by donkeys and we should be ashamed of our passivity.
This goes beyond being an anti establishment concept album.
Far beyond that, and if there is any ambiguity within in it then it lies in us not really knowing if he is trying to wake us up to what is going on in this fucked up post Trump world, or if he just doesn’t give a fuck anymore and is merely holding a mirror up to the horror as an expression of his own impotence.
Either way listening to it is akin to tying yourself to a post to wait the hurricane out.
Even when he sings softly and there is minimal accompaniment there is no taking away the power of this work.
Astounding in so many ways. 

PS. The redacted artwork of the sleeve in itself sends a powerful message.


Little Steve - Soulfire.

It’s been a number of years since Little Steven has graced us with an album, but it has certainly been worth the wait.
Across the breadth of Soulfire we have Van Zandt delving into his own song book and embracing the material he has written for others, and in doing this he has reinvested in himself as a very credible artists and front man.
Loud applause and slaps on the back all round.
Let’s just say that no one puts Little Steven in the corner. Not even the Boss.
And there’s ample proof of this in the groove of Soulfire.
It’s a classic album in every sense that those two worlds imply.

Elsewhere, when not engaging with his own songs, he pays homage to his roots with an exhilarating take on the Etta James track The Blues Is My Business, and then with a nod of his bandana he slips into the sounds of blaxploitation to deliver a funky strutting dirty street level version of Down And Out In New York City, a track that appeared on James Brown’s Black Caesar soundtrack.
You want a breadth of styles being taken in the stride of a true professional then look no further.
The political fire may have been set aside, and that may well be something that some will miss, but there’s plenty of heat being generated here.
With there being a number of tracks that fans of Southside Johnny will have heard, then it has to be considered that some could think there is possibly a dearth of new songs to record, but rather than gravitate towards that negative assumption, this sounds more like Little Steven has decided to simply use his own material as the foundation stones to build another phase of his solo career on.
And what a gloriously solid base it is.



Matt Scott - Whoever that is…..

It was never on the cards that the follow up to Matt Scot’s debut would have stumbled coming out of the gates.
Expectations have always been high, but he has surpassed even the most fervent fans wish for him to deliver on all the promise that has been seen in him.
With a band backing him the stripped down dustbowl aficionado of old has been left behind as he embraces a much fuller sound.
Someone shout Judas at him so that others can loudly remonstrate with them that they are stuck in the past.
In fact you can join me in shouting loudly ‘that was then and this is now’
The entire signature markings of old are still embedded in the songs, there is still Dylan, Springsteen and Frankie Miller in the DNA of his song writing, but here we see the evolution of the influences of these greats bearing fruit.
This is the release where we see Matt step out from under large shadows and stand on their shoulders to reach for a piece of the firmament to call his own.

Of a famous lager company made modern day folk singers with a love of rock and roll then………..

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Ray Davies – Americana

Ray Davis and The Jayhawks.
What could go wrong?
The answer is nothing, absolutely nothing at all.
In some alternate universe this, in parts, is what a fanciful collaboration between Gram Parsons and Ray Davies would sound like.
Maybe after Gram had partied with Mick and Keef in France for a week or two he would have ended up in Muswell Hill with Ray.
Ensconced in a tiny flat they would have drank and conjured up stories about Britannia riding the range astride a mighty buffalo while Geronimo confused and angry tried to navigate a sixties London.
And yet while that phantasmagorical aspect does seem to exist on Americana, The Jayhawks can’t exert any more influence than a bit of flavouring, as ultimately the album is always being dragged back under the wing of Ray Davies who expertly lays out the groundwork to support the argument that he is indeed a national treasure.
Basically it is still more UK than US, and that is comforting to hear as this is Ray Davies after all.
Content wise what we have on Americana is Ray deftly looking back over his relationship with the USA with an unblinking eye, and while it wasn’t all roses you do get the distinct impression that the lure of the fantasy of the USA still holds some sway.
The reality wasn’t to his taste, but the fantasy is a different matter all together.
Undoubtedly he would have loved to have broken the US with the Kinks, and missing out on the British Invasion still rankles, but if they had been up there with the Beatles and Stones at the time then we wouldn’t have got this album, and that would have been a great shame.
Who knows, we may have got something as equally fantastic, but it would have been different.
It’s all swings and roundabouts really, and in life it always is.
And Ray knows this.
Life stretches out before us in all direction and every step forward is the first on a journey that we have no way of knowing, and here we have an example of this.
It’s an album that gazes back into the past and considers the journey including where some paths untaken would have led.
This is pretty much an essential addition to the work of Davies.  
We should celebrate that we do have artists of this calibre in this country, and that they are as vital and relevant as they have always been.
Probably the best way to do that is to go out and buy it.

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2 comments:

  1. Great Review, Ray Davies is the undisputed world champion of songwriters and is my #1 lifetime hero! God save Ray he's not like everybody else!

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  2. The musical landscape of the UK would look very different without his contributions.
    The Beatles and Rolling Stones always get the plaudits, but the Kinks should always be mentioned in the same breath.

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