Another belated blog and a belated thank you.
Lost In The Ghost Light was released in February to the best reviews and best sales of any of my work outside of no-man. Given the fact that the album was a time-consuming labour of love that took seven years to beat into shape, it was genuinely gratifying that people (and reviewers) embraced the concept and the music so positively. As pointed out in my last blog, it was very much a homage to the era of the ‘classic album’ – in terms of its densely detailed artwork and unified lyrical theme – and represented my attempt to personalise the aspects of Progressive Rock that – alongside other influences – were instrumental in me falling in love with music in my early teens.
In using a veteran Rock musician as a protagonist, my aim was to question how the music industry (and music itself) had changed between 1967 and 2017. Unexpectedly, one possible answer emerged during the promotion for the album when I spent a day signing postcards in the Sony Music building in London. Sony occupies a vast and impressive open plan office, and what used to be independent record and publishing companies now work side by side in almost invisibly divided cubicles (Inside Out are next to Music For Nations and both face the Now That’s What I Call Music staff and so on). Business seemed good and as always it was a delight to meet the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Inside Out team. The fly in the ointment, however, was that the offices of Pop svengali Simon Cowell’s Syco label were located on the floor above the canteen staring on all below. I’d like to say that there was a larger than life cardboard cut-out of Simon laughing and pointing at the unfortunate worker ants beneath (while crushing copies of Dark Side Of The Moon, OK Computer and Bitches Brew in his other hand), but I’d be lying. Despite that, I suspect that Jeff Harrison wouldn’t have liked what the all too visible supremacy of Syco suggested about the state of music in 2017.
Talking of labours of love, Bowness / Chilvers 2.0 has been tantalisingly close to completion for the last four years. As of the writing of this blog, guess what? It’s still almost ready.
On hearing the latest version of the album in June, it became obvious that two of the tracks were out of sync with the other pieces sonically and stylistically, and also seemed overlong and underdeveloped by comparison.
The final touches – hopefully – to The Boy From Yesterday and Blog Remember Me were applied earlier this week as new vocals were recorded over what have been constantly evolving arrangements. ‘The project with no end’ feels like it really is nearing its completion, though don’t be surprised if it’s still ‘almost there’ by the time of my next blog (sometime in 2020 probably).
While California, Norfolk was recorded in one location over a very short period of time, its successor has been pieced together over more than a decade in a variety of places. Despite that, the singular and highly intimate nature of the music’s character remains. Yes Sirree, you’ll be glad to know that we sound completely and utterly defeated and doomed!
Talking of long gestation periods, the Plenty album It Could Be Home was finished in May.
Masterfully mixed by White Willow supremo Jacob Holm-Lupo, the album possesses the lushness and scope Plenty had always wished for its debut album. Given that that debut would have been released some time in 1987 or 1988, we waited a long time for wishes to be fulfilled. At 30 years and counting, It Could Be Home holds the honour of taking longer to complete than any other album in my catalogue. Take that Bowness / Chilvers 2.0!
As I’ve written about in a soon to be unleashed Album Notes blog, I was genuinely surprised that re-interpreting the melodies, words and mindset of a me more than half my current age wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d imagined it would be.
We stayed close to the original 1980s arrangements and very quickly inhabited the ‘Plentyverse’ of old. The band sound returned without any self-conscious attempts to evoke it. Brian and David’s playing and attention to detail had evolved and the present day me (hopefully) improved upon the original vocal and lyrical performances, while the younger me re-introduced ways of singing and writing I’d long ago abandoned. The ghosts of old relationships and old feelings were evoked, but the experience was firmly rooted in the present and felt as creatively ‘current’ and challenging as anything I’ve done.
The resulting album is due out over the next six months and may even be accompanied by some live dates. The band’s first for three decades.
As it always did, Plenty’s music operates in a 1980s Art Pop territory that has crept into aspects of music I’ve subsequently made, such as the Electro-Pop elements of early no-man and the ballads of Bowness/Chilvers etc.
Without doubt, it’s been an enjoyable and emotional experience finally fulfilling a long-held ambition to properly realise songs that I still believe to be amongst the best I’ve been involved in co-writing/co-creating.
The limited edition release Songs From The Ghost Light collects songs relating to the Lost In The Ghost Light concept, some of which appeared on Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, Stupid Things That Mean The World and Lost In The Ghost Light. In all cases, in order to make a coherent album statement, the versions are different (either newly recorded or live). In many ways, the stripped-down nature of the new studio arrangements and the harder-edged quality of the live performances make Songs From The Ghost Light as much a sonic successor to My Hotel Year as a companion release to the Inside Out label albums. That said, for me, the quality of the material and the consistency of the subject matter ultimately make for a more satisfying listen than My Hotel Year.
Mixed by my MoM companion Giancarlo Erra and containing three tracks taken from a 2015 Band On The Wall performance, the release accurately captures the character of the live band, which differs greatly from the studio ensembles, and gives a flavour of the live mini-album I was planning to release in 2016.
If all of that shenanigans wasn’t enough, I’ve started a Bandcamp page as a means of presenting official releases I own as downloads, and also providing an outlet for unreleased projects I deem interesting but not worthy of physical release (including singles and EPs, that are sadly no longer financially viable to issue physically, and live performances).
Talking of live performances, the April support to Marillion at the band’s annual Weekend event provided a great excuse to get the gang back together again. Although it wasn’t Team T-Bo’s best performance it was still decent. Particularly so given that we had only one day of rehearsal beforehand, yet still managed to insert some new and untested material into the set. The event itself was inspiring and uplifting, and I was truly grateful for the audience’s patience and friendly disposition.
Next stop is Birmingham in late September, with a version of the band that sees the return of bass colossus Colin Edwin. Expect Rocked-out explosions in addition to intimate Ambient excursions.
Outside of that, it’s looking likely that I’ll be performing at a few festivals over the coming year, one in Sweden in November 2017, one in the Netherlands in March 2018 and, possibly, one in Norway in June 2018. Four dates in a year? My Lord, it’s a World Tour!
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Giles Martin remix) (2017 / 1967)
David Byrne – David Byrne (1994)
Focus – Hamburger Concerto (1974)
Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood (The Country Set) (2017 / 1977)
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy (2017)
Bill Nelson - Plectrajet (2015)
Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife: Further Listening (2017 / 1996-2000)
William S. Burroughs – Exterminator! (1973)
Milan Kundera – The Festival Of Insignificance (2014)