This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1/03
Reviewing albums is a serious matter. Especially those CDs sent one by the artiste himself (and not by some impersonal Press Office of a major recording company).
The individual artiste has often put heart and soul into the hour-or-so of music they are presenting to you. It is therefore incumbent upon the reviewer to treat the album with respect. Just imagine the roles reversed: how raving MAD it would make me if I sent my work to him and he treated it dismissively!
So, I am aware that I have a bounden duty to be FAIR here. And having come to a considered view, be able to look at myself in the mirror. So here goes.
I have to tell you that having played this album three times all the way through, the jury is not just STILL “out”, but has sent a written message to the Judge to say that they are hopelessly split down the middle and will never reach a decision, one way or the other.
They divide into two camps. One, which enthuses over Smythe’s plaintive light tenor voice, persuasive acoustic guitar, and very solid studio assists from half-a-dozen talented musicians (amongst whom, multi-instrumentalist – and co-producer – Chris Payne stands out).
The other camp don’t doubt that the album has a lot going for it, but alas they are disheartened by the fact that none of the songs really make their pulse quicken or get them humming the melody. Nor do any of the lyrics stay for five minutes inside one’s EYELIDS, let alone lodge themselves in your cerebellum.
That is not to say they are bad lyrics: they are not. Smythe’s work submits itself to rigorous scansion, and has some neat and unforced rhyme endings. Subject matter runs the gamut, and is impressively NOT the “contemplating-one’s navel” diet we are sometimes subjected to.
But that said, the songs don’t GRAB you. Melodically for instance, the opening track “Autumn Gold” starts as the rest of the CD means to continue: a mildly pleasant tune that one cannot possibly dislike, but equally, would not go to the barricades for!
I can sense this is not one of my better reviews. I can pad it out with quotes from the lyric sheet, but what is the point? They will only leave you the reader in the same state I am in now: viz. not sure if THIS glass is half empty or half full.
Indeed, giving you a taste of the lyric might well be counter-productive. For song-lyrics work WITH melody: seeing them naked is putting them under a strong microscope, and they can so easily be found wanting.
What do I mean? Okay, if you insist on jogging my elbow! Let us take the last song “England in the Summer”.
Now melodically, it has a nice sepia glow to it: a nice nostalgic feel. Tune and lyric match hand-in-glove. And it is precisely BECAUSE they do that one makes allowances for the chronological howler Andy commits in his opening couplet.
One lets the air of general insouciance that permeates the song help banish from the memory this “two seasons in one day” cracker:
“Take me back to England in the Summer time
To the smell of the Spring….”
Eh? See what I mean about quoting lyrics? Quoted apart from their music, they will just lead to more doubts setting in.
So, since I do not want you to catch a dose of my uncertainty, I will now get up from my desk with this parting shot. Let’s have an album of “covers” from you Andy: I would be confident that your performing style could really produce an album for me to truly ENTHUSE over!
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