Album reviews by Eric Sandberg
Having rewritten "Sweet Jane" three times over his last two albums notwithstanding, Peter Perrett is an effortlessly charming and engaging songwriter. In 1978 Perrett scored a hit with "Another Girl, Another Planet" as a member of The Only Ones. The band folded in 1980 after releasing three albums.
Perrett briefly resurfaced fifteen years later as The One — but drugs, and the ensuing poor behavior often caused by their use, cut this comeback short. In 2017, buoyed by his son, guitarist/arranger/producer Jamie, Peter Perrett surprised everyone who cares with the release of How the West Was Won, a strong collection of all new songs.
Now, just two years later, the rejuvenated Perrett has graced us with another album of first rate new songs. Humanworld finds Perrett in full command of his [previously thought lost] melodicism and poetic lyricism. Jamie Perrett provides all of his dad's songs with the musical grandeur they deserve and even contributes one of his own which fits in seamlessly thanks to the similarity of their voices.
Humanworld is simply a great album by a great songwriter. It's one of those rare albums that is instantly likeable but is not going to wear out its welcome any time soon.
Remember when Michael Jordan tried to play professional baseball? It's kind of like that when Richard Hawley tries to rock. OK, that is admittedly unfair and shameful hyperbole — Richard Hawley can rock — at least far better than MJ can hit a curveball. It's just not what he does best.
Richard Hawley is the Michael Jordan of slow tempo, reverb-drenched, aching romantic balladry. He has the soul of Roy Orbison at his saddest, the pathos of Nick Cave at his most wistful and the lonesomeness of Hank Williams at his — oh never mind — as a balladeer, Hawley is a law unto himself — impossible to describe adequately with words.
After an EP and five full-length albums of gorgeous melodies and sublime arrangements Hawley threw his devoted fans a wicked curveball in the form of Standing at the Sky's Edge , a distortion-soaked, psychedelic romp. He got a lot of stick for it, too. As one reviewer put it, "WHY!?" At the time, I didn't mind the diversion. He deserved the opportunity to try something different, and he is one mean guitar player.
Hawley returned to his previous form three years later with an achingly beautiful album Hollow Meadows the first track of which "I Still Want You" sounds vaguely like an apology to his fans.
After composing the scores for a couple of films and a TV show Hawley is back with a new album and he's taking things further again. On Further, Hawley mixes uptempo rockers with his more familiar lighter touch and the results are...well...mixed. It's a fine album from start to finish, and an enjoyable listen, but the juxtaposition of his fair to middling rock songs with his ever perfect balladry makes me wish it was all ballads, all the time. The proof is in the pudding, so I will leave you here to listen to the rockin' lead track from Further to compare to a lush track from Hawley's previous album album Hollow Meadows and let you decide. Let me know which you prefer.
"Off My Mind" The lead track from Further
Album review by Eric Sandberg
The Ocean Blue are on a roll. With the release of their seventh full-length album Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves on June 21, the band has cut the gap between albums to a paltry six years. Their previous record, 2013's Ultramarine was widely hailed as their finest to date, but that standing may be in jeopardy.
The new album continues to explore the unique musical niche the band created for themselves with their debut self-titled Sire/Reprise album in 1989. Indeed, the semi-title track "Kings and Queens" kicks things off with all the band's hallmarks: a shimmering guitar arpeggio buoyed by a Wurlitzer counter melody and a lyrical reference to the ocean delivered in front man David Schelzel's soothing, laconic voice, which I might describe as Nick Heyward after the Ambien has kicked in if I had less self-control as a writer.
At first blush, this album seems no different — another in a series — familiar and reassuring. One really doesn't want this beloved band to change much lest something precious and dear be lost. After listening to the album repeatedly, however, I did begin to notice something. Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves is The Ocean Blue's most confident sounding album since their debut, and their most sonically pleasing.
Jim Ladd take note: this is a headphone album. A great deal of care, inspiration and attention to detail went into the arrangements of these songs. There is a varied and pleasing pallet of guitar tones employed by chief songwriter Schelzel and ace utility player Oed Ronne — each perfectly suited to the song. Ronne also delivers some of his best work on the keyboard front, mixing modern sounds with retro synth flourishes that recall Ultravox and Gary Numan, and are spooned out in doses measured to serve each song.
Ronne, Schelzel, Mittan and Anderson
Holding it all down is the tight, economical drumming of Peter Anderson, who especially shines on the spritely "Paraguay My Love" [a song that could be mistaken for The Decemberists sped up to 45 from 33 1/3] and the urgent, pulsating bass lines of founding member Bobby Mittan. The Ocean Blue are fortunate to have kept Mittan in the fold all these years as he is the key to maintaining the band's sound. Just compare any post Pete de Freitas Echo & the Bunnymen album to their earlier work and you'll understand what I mean.
Standout tracks include: "Therein Lies the Problem In My Life" a mouthful of a lyric but one that has been stuck in my head since its release on a Korda Records sampler last year. The bouncy, acoustic driven "Give It a Little Time" is a simple ditty that threatens to become a symphony during the bridge. "Love Doesn't Make It Easy On Us," featuring guest vocalists Charlotte Crabtree and Allison Labonne, is lush, brooding and charming all at once. The beautiful "All the Way Blue" has a title that immediately conjures Nick Drake and musically sends you drifting, not unlike Drake's best songs.
If you're already a fan of The Ocean Blue, there is nothing here that disappoints. If you're not that familiar with them, Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves is a perfect place to begin — and then go fast forward in reverse.
The Ocean Blue have dates scheduled, hopping back and forth across the continent [and even dipping down to Peru for a couple of gigs] scheduled into December in support of Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves. You can check if they're coming to a venue near you here: http://www.theoceanblue.com/shows
Order the album and other merchandise here: https://www.theoceanblue.com/shop
To read a review of an The Ocean Blue concert from last year click here.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.