1.) Good Karma: Roxette
2.) On The Waters [ VINYL ]: Bread
3.) Twenty Golden Greats [ VINYL ]: Glen Campbell
4.) Human: Rag N’ Bone Man
I Need You More Than Want You, and I Want You For All Time
Glen Campbell’s Twenty Golden Greats is a fertile mixture of crooner country rock. Some of which is more crooner and some more country. Its prevailing use of orchestration giving most of these old tracks a timeless feel and you don’t need to be no deep south rodeo cowboy to relate to Campbell’s everyman themes.
Featuring the superb Wihcita Lineman, Galeveston, Rhinestone Cowboy, all of which I’ve heard before but never tied back to a single artist. As you go deeper into Campbell’s back catalogue, you find even more familiar stuff like Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife, All I Have To Do Is Dream, Reason To Believe. Songs which have long since existed in my conciousness, now materialised by this strong collection. Then there’s Campbell’s material that’s new to me, and newly compelling. Country Boy, Try a Little Kindness, Gentle On My Mind, One Last Time. All in all this is a truly solid effort from a truly legendary artist and this vinyl from 1976 still sounds utterly superb – a solid 3rd place in this tough group.
Bitter End for Rag N’ Bone Man
Rag N Bone Man’s debut number 1 album Human is a solidly produced, soulful pop affair. Material-wise I find it patchy, there’s a songwriting naivety on display. Take opener and clearly the strongest track here, ‘Human‘. It’s too eager to give away its payload. A two verse build-up would have rewarded the listener with a much more impactful lead into that powerfully catchy pop hook. Elsewhere, there’s tracks like Odetta or As You Are that rely too heavily on his admittedly great voice, but need to rely less on production and more on composition. Ego has a good chrous but is let down badly by the amateur rap at the end.
Arrow & Love You Any Less are not bad but this album drags its feet so much that it borders on tiresome, by the time you eventually get all the way through to final track Die Easy, that’s exactly what you feel like doing! Human is nothing more than an ok album, sounding ordinary next to the likes of Good Karma, On The Waters & Twenty Golden Greats. I guess we should never have expected Rag N’ Bone Man to be able to compete in this group because he is only Human after all….
Call On Bread
Bread’s second studio album On The Waters, with its West Coast easy rock vibe, has such delightful wall to wall material. At times I sit in awe at Gate’s seemingly casual delivery of such superb compositions. There’s not a single stray song on this record. They all fit perfectly and sound sumptous. The reproduction quality of the sound on this fifty year old vinyl gets a bit sketchy though, with a slight crackle and perceptible distortion on one or two tracks (Call On Me & Look What You’ve Done) which is real unfortunate, but the material is so superb that you almost don’t notice.
There’s nothing on here that doesn’t fit the vibe of the album and it’s all of a consistently high quality. It feels unfair to namedrop any of the tracks because I can’t separate them on quality but it’s worth mentioning that this album features Make It With You, Bread’s one and only number 1 in America. While they had a handful of top 20s, I can see why the pop charts didn’t embrace them too wildly, these waters are beautiful yet gentle. Bread have always been light on the rock, although this album remains firmly rooted in guitar-led rock n roll foundations. At such a consistently slow tempo throughout, suited to the semi-acoustic, country rock of 70’s America, I think the band, as well as this album, remain a bit of a ‘musos’ choice. But I love it though!
Some Other Sunshine, Some Other Shoreline
It’s always a risk when one of your favourite bands puts out new material. There’s an expectation, more than that, a desperate feeling of dread that this band that you champion so ruthlessly might let you down with a sub-par effort. I should never have worried though. Roxette have really done it with Good Karma haven’t they? It’s truly an excellent pop/rock album. I’m struggling to think of any bands that never made a bad record, that stinker of the back catalogue. Maybe Dire Straits? Maybe Lou Gramm-era Foreigner? I can’t think of one bad Roxette album. Not one. I’ll admit that their mid-80’s debut Pearls of Passion is a little rough round the edges in places but it’s still solidly produced with more than a few killer melodies.
Give me a coin and I’ll kick off a dream, in two thousand sixteen
Good Karma kicks off with the electro-pop of Why Dontcha?, a Per Gessle special and if I’m honest, a fairly ordinary, albeit solid start to the album in the same vein as Real Sugar or Way Out from Room Service and Charm School respectively. But from track two the album takes off with the sweeping It Just Happens and from that point you just need to sit back and let the high quality songs rush over you. Some Other Summer, You Make It Sound So Simple, This One, Why Don’t You Bring Me Flowers, all top quality stuff. To inject some contemporary influence, the band worked with Swedish production duo Addeboy vs. Cliff, with whom Roxette had previously collaborated on a 2015 remix of “The Look” (which I’m yet to experience), but this freshness certainly benefits the album and prevents any noticable staleness or re-hash of the bands previous studio efforts.
Now, Good Karma is bristling with creativity but isn’t exactly a very organic album, you can hear the music sway way into Gessle’s territory with use of digital loops, EDM beats, autotune voice and rave synths. Whether this was because Marie was not so available due to her illness or not I don’t know. It is apparent that Marie seems absent from large parts of this album, where she does show up though, she adds a real layer of organic beauty with her sparkling vocal performance, especially on the emotional final track April Clouds where Marie sings a heartfelt “Stay forever, stay a little while“. If only she could have stayed with us a little while longer, it’s enough to make a grown man tear-up.