In this, his second album, Jack Arthurs follows ‘Only Dreams are True’ with ‘Treasure House’, building on the foundations of a strong debut solo album, growing as a songwriter and showing one man and an acoustic guitar are not something to avoided.
The test I set myself with any review is; ‘Can I listen to this several times in a row and still hear more after each play’. ‘Treasure House’ passes this test with distinction. I cannot comment on the CD packaging as, at the time of writing I haven’t got my copy, but the front cover shows a Turneresque view of BamburghCastle, an iconic vista from the North East coast of England.
The music is entrenched in that region in its influence and spirit. It is full of celebration and with tons of positivity throughout the songs and, yet, Jack portrays the intrinsic sadness that sits at the back of life in the North east at times. The character of the people in this part of the world shines through in songs like Hope and Soaring. There is a stoic character outside but with a quiet poetry in their hearts that is moved by the simplest of things.
The shortest song on the album Spirals, an instrumental, is fascinating in that it has so much space in the track and yet it fills the space well. Jack has obvious skill with the guitar but is not flash or pyrotechnic with it. I am drawn to make an obvious connection with Nick Drake and Roy Harper and this is very valid to some degree with the plaintive voice and the songs that look below the surface of life and examine the world in way only a singer song writer of this tradition can do.
I am not sure if he (Jack) recognises it but I also hear Alan Hull (he of Lindisfarne fame) in his solo guise. I saw Jack recently play some of these songs live and he feels and lives every note of the songs, they come from the heart in the purest form.
Jack is not frightened to let the music alone tell the story and that is a great strength in this case. You can listen to this album on many levels, a glass of wine to hand and the stereo on, and just let the music fill the void and find yourself in a contemplative mood, wishing to watch a sunset while sat on a North sea coast. It’s not background music, it would be almost rude to use it to fill silence, but I can see me putting it on when I get in from a night out to unwind and let the cares of the world drift away.
Bad Elephant Music have made a great signing here. The potential in Jack Arthurs’ writing is yet to be fully realised and I see much to come.
This kind of music is never out of fashion because it never really was in fashion but it crosses boundaries and borders of genres. Everybody, from someone who has heard an Ed Sheeran album to someone with a folk background, can find something to enjoy here.
If I’m being mischievous, I want to hear Jack play with a band and hear him rock out or fill out some of the songs. If he does or doesn’t, it won’t matte,r he can hold his head high, the so called difficult second album is not difficult to these ears.
Released 5th February 2016 via Bad Elephant Music.
Happy New Year my friends, after the bumper musical cornucopia of 2015, it is quite difficult to see how 2016 could top it but, you never know!
To get this year started with a bang, here’s a super-duper edition of Wallet Emptier featuring some great albums from last year that didn’t get to feature due to being released at the end of the year and some belters that are kicking off 2016 in fine fashion. Buckle up, it’s going to be an exciting ride…….
M!NDGAMES – Paradox of Choice
Belgian proggers M!NDGAMES returned in 2015 with this new release, which was my first exposure to their classy brand of Neo-Prog. Bombastic bursts of symphonic tinged rock combine with delicate moments of reflection and sadness to give a feel of early Marillion, all underscored by swooping keyboards. An album that definitely gets better as it it progresses and one that is worthy of your attention.
With ‘Treasure House’, Jack draws from a deep well of poignant and reflective experiences to deliver a delightful collection of acoustic tracks that come straight from his heart and are like a breath of fresh air. He is tremendously excited to bring these stripped back, uplifting songs to life. Just one man and his guitar, Jack has written ten insightful and moving tracks that, together with his haunting vocals, lead you on a captivating musical journey into the depths of his soul.
Released 5th February 2016 through Bad Elephant Music
I opened my email inbox this morning to find two new promotional releases, the first was for Profuna Ocean, a Dutch band I profess to having passed under my radar. Always open to new experiences I launched into ‘In Vacuum’ to be utterly stunned by what I was hearing. A more hard-edged, aggressive prog with intelligent lyrics, excellent vocals and excellent production. At 62 minutes long it never outstays its welcome and I found myself immediately pressing repeat play to be absorbed in its stylish aura once again, just WOW!
From the first note it was apparent that there is nothing quite like the highly original sound of N.y.X.They are at the forefront of avant-garde, experimental progressive rock, a real musical breath of fresh air. The multi-instrumental trio is joined by a number of impressive guest artists to build on the signature sound of a power trio enhanced by electronic percussions, synthesizers and effects.
Berlin based Osta Love are one of the bands to watch for 2015 and their follow up the dark concepts of ‘Good Morning Dystopia’ is a complete breath of fresh air. ‘Isle of Dogs’ is full of their signature sound that unites Rock with Jazz, Pop with Baroque and adds a dose of melancholic dreamscape to form a unique sound that touches hearts and heads. Even though it was released at the end of 2015, I have only just heard this jewel and it is rapidly becoming a highlight for me.
Another German band, this time hailing from Dresden, Toxic Smile have thrown out the rule book and produced an album that consists of just one 42 minute track and, guess what, it works! A soaring progressive rock and metal epic that takes you through a multitude of emotions in its relatively short running time. The distinctive vocals and superb musicianship are key elements to its instant attraction, a record that will surprise and delight on many levels. Another great release from Progressive Promotion Records.
Released 6th December 2015
Stand out track – well there’s only the one anyway…..
I had already decided to include this release before news of David Bowie’s death started to cross the web, while I have never been as big a fan as many, I have always recognised him as a great musical innovator and a true legend. ‘Blackstar’ was his 27th album and one of his recent best. Exploring new avenues using a jazz band he has produced a deep and sometimes dark release that, obviously, touched on his own mortality as he came to the end of his life. It now seems a brilliant, if poignant, testimony to his musical legacy.
Another ‘Prog Supergroup’, this time featuring Nick Beggs, Roger King and MarcoMinnemann, rears its head to deliver engaging, expansive rock for the thinking person, apparently. While not perhaps living up to those lofty expectations entirely, it is an enjoyable listen and, when not sounding generically like a lot of the so called supergroups, has a real depth and intelligence all of its own. Don’t take it on face value and give it more than one coat of listening to and you will find an album that is worthy of your collection, just not quite a contender for album of the year yet.
Originally released in 2014, this year sees the re-release of Devin Townsend’s rootsy country and North American folk music project as a 2CD and 1DVD package. Featuring the delightful vocals of Ché Aimee Dorval it is winsome and wistful in equal measure, evocative memories are brought to life on a battered old telecaster and fender amp in what is a complete change from the Canadian artist’s metal roots. Lay back on your lounger on the porch, sipping iced lemon tea in the sun, life’s easy really. Worth it for the 8 minute brilliance of ‘The Bridge’ alone….
Italian progressive rock that is incredibly intricate and engrossing. Lock yourself in a darkened room and let the endless combination of notes and distant rhythms create an amazing union of classical and rock music. A record where the language doesn’t matter, it is the intent of the words that is obvious and draws you deep into this incredible album.
Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – When The Kill Code Fails
The second promotional release that I found in my email inbox, ‘When The Kill Code Fails’ sounded very intriguing. A science fiction/artificial intelligence themed concept album, it is the second release from the London based rock band with a great name Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and is described as proggy, funky and sometimes poignant. Expressive vocals and a pared back sound give it a real intensive feeling that immediately draws you in. Electronica, prog, bluesy rock and metal all get a look in during its very enjoyable and inventive 56 minute running time.
German band Martigan were formed in 1994 and deliver an almost pastoral brand of progressive rock with lilting vocals and a sunny aspect, think Lifesigns meets United Progressive Fraternity and you won’t be far wrong. An engrossing 75 minutes of easy listening progressive rock that just flies past leaving you in quite a relaxed state of mind.