'Albion' [PledgeMusic.com Edition]
Release Date: 2014
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
On August 23rd last year, the first update was shared entitled 'Seven People, One Room' depicting highlights on the first day in the recording studio for Ginger's latest PledgeMusic.com campaign.
After breaking all expectations from fans and his own modest outlook to life by producing a record-breaking Pledge Music campaign for the magnificent '555%' project, the momentum hasn't really been lacking to be honest.
You may have heard or stumbled across the prickly collision of sound that proved to be the 'Mutation' albums and there was the sunshine glare of 'Hey! Hello!' with Victoria Liedtke sharing major lead vocal responsibilities. Thanks to The Wildhearts front-man's creative and professional alliance with Pledge Music, it would seem to have become a cautious marriage made in the proverbial.
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38 more updates later, keeping the loyal and appreciative followers informed of what was named 'The Practical Musician', here we are now as I type this out with a downloadable version of the album which Ginger and his beloved cohorts have settled on as 'Albion'.
An album that is so many textures and shades and what I have crudely labelled as 'Progressive Rock' due to its nature of constantly changing and pushing the boundaries. The 15 tracks on this edition are seemingly bright on the first spin but as with many albums, the more you listen the more you feel there are shadows and observations of darker passengers to be acknowledged.
'Albion' is an intense piece of work and when it eventually reaches mainstream retail music outlets, thanks to some serious review and scrutiny is supposed to be a shorter album with a few of these tracks removed. Therefore those who pledged during this latest campaign will have their money's worth and those who are partially interested or appreciate from a further distance can buy a slightly different version.
We're all winners in that case and I for one am so excited to share this review with you. No more chit-chat about the background, now to business. What is the music like?!
'Drive' provides the opening music which for a split instant reminds of AC/DC before changing its intent. Mr Wildheart accepts he's still alive and pushes forwards through the density of 'Life' until things make sense. It juggles full-steam-ahead rock'n'roll with some lighter grooves and is accessible and a fine exercise in song-writing.
'Cambria' explodes in to life and lays out a foundation for Wildheart to let loose with his angst. Melodies aren't far behind as the band unite to create a collage that is a combination of fury, melancholy and beauty. With personnel including usual suspects Chris Catalyst, Denzel, Jon Poole, Victoria Liedtke and Bryan Scary providing some fresh meat to the collaboration, the sounds were always going to be very interesting.
There is very little I could type here to do justice to their contributions. Even now as I type this, I can imagine Jon Poole reading the words whilst pulling funny faces and taking the piss out of me. They come across like a positive group of warm-hearted people who love to think about life and do what they enjoy.
"Let me help you... Carry that weight around" circles in my ears during 'The Road To Apple Cross' and then 'The Order Of The Dog' glides in to earshot. Clocking in at just over six minutes and twenty seconds, there is plenty of room for the song to spread its imaginative wings. The dog in this lyrical combat happens to be the black dog. Churchill would have approved and I'm not talking about the bloody insurance company!
Harmonies weave throughout as the musical template keeps moving, either treading on repetitive ground or working towards something new. As my ears digest what has been, 'Chill Motherfucker, Chill' rides along a chugging riff before turning in to a brief whimsical moment and then soaring in to the chorus.
The straight forward cry of "Burn this city down, burn it to the ground", loops as the chorus to 'Burn This City Down' provides a subtle underlying fragility to what is yet again a solid musical environment. 'Body Parts' is short, sweet and reminiscent of The Wildhearts with one notable difference; the keys provided by Scary.
This is followed up by 'The Beat Goes On' which captures the slight vibe I feel when listening to Silver Ginger 5, (a former project assembled by Wildheart in the very late 90s/very early noughties which briefly had the Electric Boys main man Conny Bloom involved – Check out their excellent collaboration on a song called 'Walk Like A Motherfucker' by this project if and when you have a moment).
Another highlight on an album that really shines brightly with quality is 'After All You Said About Cowboys'. This is a laid back number which sees the band complement the melody with a gentle touch. The vocals throughout this track are a delight. As I accustom myself for what may come next, there's a disco fever gripping the opening of 'Grow A Pair' but after changing gear, we're in familiar melodious terrain as the Rock is injected in to the music once more.
'I Need You' retains one hell of a hook and coats the ears in caramel with another fine performance on vocals from the band. This is juxtaposed with 'Capital Anxiety' which is more Punk than what is accepted as Punk these days! It charges along loaded with attitude and is done and dusted before we hit the two minute mark! Talk about a bull in a china shop! With an album that feels like every morsel of care and love has been invested, it's easy to overlook some songs.
I have a soft spot for 'Into This' which reminds my ears of the flavours offered up on Mr Wildheart's 'Yoni' album. Once we've let it shine sufficiently, the six minute plus of 'Creepers' batters the ears with a hyped up enthusiasm without losing sight of melodies and the complex arrangement that gives it such charm. Listen out for Liedtke's vocal that feels like Tim Burton messing with a familiar nursery rhyme.
The final song on this Pledge Music Edition of 'Albion' is the title track. If I was to attach the word 'epic' to my review, I'd be insulting the song and the band. What I will share is how frightening it is. I can only guess how the band would interpret this in a live environment? I thought 'Sky Babies' by The Wildhearts was a challenge!
Being honest with you as I always try to be, I'm an avid fan of the output by Ginger in all of his guises. Some I prefer more than others naturally as his music can cover a lot of ground. I'm still trying my hardest to fully appreciate what The Wildhearts did with 'Endless Nameless', but that debate can wait for another day.
The production values are of the highest order as you'd expect on 'Albion', the sounds can be vast and yet at other times so intricate. Whatever the song requires, the song is given. The song-writing is right up there along with his finest moments, and the musicianship is sublime.
I'm a philosopher at heart and don't believe in 'perfect' albums, so will shy away from giving five pints out of five when scoring the result. There are a great many great albums and ones I class as favourites, that I feel could be classic or exceptional. But to say that an album is perfect is something that I don't believe I have the right to do as an individual.
It is purely subjective, but what I shall say is this audio journey has been truly full-filling and if you want something special to listen to before the end of this year, you could do a lot worse than purchase 'Albion'. If this album was a meal, it would be a hot homemade stew on a freezing winter day.
The Road To Apple Cross
The Order Of The Dog
Chill Motherfucker, Chill
Burn This City Down
The Beat Goes On
After All You Said About Cowboys
Grow A Pair
I Need You