[…continued from last post]
I loved the echoey synth riff that heralded “Earthbound” with the strings easing in underneath that. The slow tempo gave us plenty of time to absorb all of the fine detail employed here. The juxtaposition of the glockenspiel and the pizzicato strings set our ears up for the sweet backing chorus and it was Neville Henry who delivered the coup de grace on the sax solo at the middle eight. While this song was the first one in the program which was not a single [yet, anyway] that did not stop it from attaining a splendid critical mass of beauty that would the envy of many a single.
Congas, synths, and serpentine hi-hat let us know that “Touching Distance” was slithering to the beat of a different drummer. And then Jacko Peake’s fitful flute and the percussive chimes sent us deep into the Lalo Schifrin zone! As if the deep tremolo spy guitar licks if Dr. Robert didn’t make that abundantly clear. It felt wholly like an instrumental before having the cheek to debut the minimal vocals halfway through its running time. It was all poise and pose, balanced adroitly, before evaporating on the last glissando of chimes at the song;s end.
Then the frisky insouciance of “Unicorn Kisses” brought the playful side of Soul to the foreground, with Peake’s flute lightly dancing a jig against the staccato horns and back beat hooks of the deft intro. The music perfectly echoing the ebullient lyrics of Dr. Robert which captured a kind candy-colored bliss we’d all be happy to experience.
While “Journey To You” has had six of its ten songs issued as singles, this one could definitely be the lucky seventh from its program. Its euphoric vibe was more than uplifting enough to justify such a conceit. and it was yet another of the songs here that featured a cold ending just when we were getting warmed up for more.
The melodrama of the penultimate title track, showed a band willing to put all of their cards on the table in confidence. The cinematic sweep of this one was like an inspired blending of Burt Bacharach, John Barry, and Ennio Morricone getting on like a house on fire. Dr. Robert had claimed that he was listening to Love’s “Forever Changes” back in the early 80s when he first started writing this only to put it aside until he was ready to return to it. Thankfully he remembered to pick up the threads of this song and to weave it into a stunning tapestry of passion with more than a hint of the bullfight arena in his Granada locale with the trumpet of Dom Glover and castanets glinting off of the setting sunlight in the song.
The middle eight was truly glorious with flutes, strings, and glockenspiel caught up in a dance of desire with the tempo slowing enough for the listener to take in the luxury of it all, before the climactic sax solo on the album was given a send off courtesy of Mr. Henry as the impressive song built to a final climax.
Then the album placed its dubby coda of “Teardrop Rock” into the playlist. With strong rhythm guitar driving this one forward as hints of Reggae skank were joined by burning, distorted guitar leads that give it all a vibe not a hundred miles away from the great Colourbox. Though I daresay that combo would never had thought of adding a clavinet to the mix. The only lyrical content was the title, grudgingly uttered a few times in the song with the line “passing clouds above our heads” sung twice as if to tease us. The full scale horns in the coda added full Reggae power to the song only for it to abruptly end, as did so many others here.
While the band have always been a talented bunch the key difference to the music of then and now is the mature songwriting chops of Dr. Robert. Who writes all of the material. There’s an assurance to his pen that delivers in ways that was not possible as compared to 35 years ago. And in terms of production, it’s apparent that Dr. Robert can hit any target he is aiming for in terms of vibe and quality.
With “Journey To You” under their capable belts, I can only guess in which direction that this band will head next. Following a 40 year span, where they have spent 22 years making albums and touring only to find them making more lushly ornate musical statements than ever in the face of a world where they crowdsource albums and release them on their own! They can’t be making a fortune on the outlay, and yet they continue to persist and grow. Making albums that enchant in ways that manage to leave the merits of their pre-split work actually in the shade in ways normally alien to “heritage” acts.
Next: …The Graph In Summary
This album does manage the neat hat trick of a) extending their winning streak, b) producing an album that could only have come from years of experience and talent, and c) actually making one as eager for their next record as teenage Beatles fans in the early 60s were of the next single!
As with a few other bands at or around the peak of their craft I could name, it is just criminal that the only place such masterpieces can get a decent airing remains where it was when they started: college/indie radio!