“Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” – John Paul Friedrich Richter
That’s a nice quote and as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be the lead line for this review for listening to this second album from Zeelley Moon, you do feel an instant affinity to the music and a feeling of warmth, light and goodwill falls over you. To put it simply, it’s bloody gorgeous…
‘Zeelley Moon is Pat Molesworth backed by his band mates, including some of the finest musicians. ‘The Author and the Dreamer’ features seven totally rocking melodic rock vocal tracks including one acoustic and one jazz-rock instrumental that bring to mind the progressive pop-rock sound of music legends Supertramp, piano rock legends like Billy Joel, Elton John with the melancholy of Pink Floyd. The album focuses perhaps slightly indulgently on a stream of consciousness and things we are troubled by or simply observing. There are often more questions than answers.’
Along with Pat (hammond organ, keyboards, arrangements, vocals), Zeelley Moon comprises Jim Kelleher (guitars, bass), Aled Peter Lloyd (drums), Sarah Mau (cello, violin), Katherine Sparks (flute), Meg Prickett (vocals) and Steve Picking (bass tracks 1 & 6).
Pat kindly sent me the wonderfully packaged CD which, in this age of digital everything, is a very nice touch. With excellent artwork complete with lyrics and intriguing photography, Zeelley Moon’s CD packaging features a hardbound book-like Digibook & CD.
Well, from the first note of opening track Main Moon Man the lush music and Pat’s earnest vocals instantly grab your attention. Yes, there is something of the piano rock vibe about it but, what I hear is a glorious meeting of English legends XTC and pastoral progressive rock luminaries Big Big Train and what a triumphant melding of sounds it is! A song about who you are but how it might take somebody telling you for you to believe it. A lovely violin and piano lead the track in before Jim’s echoing guitar heralds Pat’s vocals, the expressive bass and drums adding even more pathos to this rather impressive album opener. English Pride might be the thing relied upon as a default during a problematic period in which it wasn’t noticed but it’s ok “because everyone has problems right, and besides, we’re too proud to make a fuss and we’re alright now anyway, but thanks for trying”. This eccentric but highly intriguing songs opens with a busy piano line before a soulful guitar hits you right in the heart and then we’re off again with a wonderfully evocative guitar and piano that invoke those giants of English guitar rock XTC and just check out that fantastic Hammond organ! The lyrics and general vibe of the song (especially the flute and violin) bring to my mind the inventive songwriting of Big Big Train and just give this song a feel of nostalgia and of better times long gone, a feeling even more enhanced by the laid back instrumental part of the song. It’s a highly effective pice of music and has rapidly become one of my favourite tracks of this year. Four Walls is a short piece about breaking free from one’s own self-imposed limitations and has a real emotive feel to it. The shimmering guitar and keyboards and choir like vocals give a real dreamlike, almost surreal, feel.
Killing The Dream opens with a wistful atmosphere, yearning vocals and delicate piano and guitar that transport you in to a warm and hazy English summer where our protagonist appreciates the simpler things in life like either dropping his own children at school or observing happy children from his car while paused at a traffic light and reflects on the positive influence of the woman in his life. There’s beautifully ethereal violin that winds around the elegant guitar along with a subtle cello and the whole song has you reflecting about your own place in the world. Where the wind Blows doesn’t offer answers to the questions posed; only perhaps helps us to reflect from the options offered and takes us back to that superb XTC/Big Big Train axis, perhaps with added piano rock this time. I love the energy and almost restrained urgency that pushes this dazzling track along and Jim’s guitar playing is utterly sublime. The vocals and the way the song unfolds in its near ten minute running time does bring to mind something of the ‘piano man’ Christopher Cross and Billy Joel style but with added English peculiarity. There is something just ‘right’ about this album and the music, it is ‘proper’ music to my ears, music that Pat has worked on and deliberated over and spent many hours creating and I think it is just stunning.
Poison in my Tea is what you suspect when something just doesn’t taste right. You can sense it but you can’t quite figure out what it is. The news, popular opinion, big businesses all have an influence, sometimes helped along by an interest or just human nature and our need to be in a tribe. A musical rant with lost of humour and plenty of tongue in cheek, the vocals very reminiscent of Glenn Tilbrook, in fact the song has definite hints of Squeeze in the guitar and the keyboards/piano, that English idiosyncracy coming to the fore once again and making for a highly entertaining and satisfying song. So Many Words are spoken, sometimes wisely, but patterns of behaviour persist and maybe you’re going around in circles. Pursuing one area of excellence in your life is a nice distraction but for how long? A beautifully written and performed song where Pat joins forces with the stirring vocals of Meg Prickett to give a deeply touching song that is enhanced by the stylish and soulful guitar from Jim and Pat’s stellar keyboards. The chic rhythm section adds a real jazz influence to this sharp, polished track and closes the album on a composed and assured note.
I just love music that moves me and affects me on an emotional level. ‘The Author and the Dreamer’ connects with you in your sub-conscious, the songwriting and performances are second to none and Zeelley Moon’s innate Englishness and idiosyncracies are what make this music so appealing and enjoyable and one of my albums of 2023. Do yourselves a favour and get your hands on it as soon as you can!
Released 20th November, 2023.
Download and streaming on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube Music and the usual others.
Physical Album sales available on Discogs.com or direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.