ThirtySix Review by Simon Gledhill
The album opens with the cracking “I Like It Like That” which hit me right between the ears with its instant impact. I don’t know if Simon will thank me for this or not – but having listened to this track dozens of times I can’t help but be reminded of the sound of U2 on their Rattle & Hum album. I think it is the chiming guitar riff that rings through the track. The guitar solo is excellent and when it finishes there is a wailing scream which again made me think of Bono. I love it.
“Preacher Of Love” continues the pace already set and the funky guitar riff draws the listen. The backing vocals are a delight and it is already clear at this early stage that the mix and production of the album is top notch. Christian Madden’s keyboard work already had me drooling.
“Hot as Hell” – the only track on the album where SImon hasn’t written the lyrics himself – has a distinctive blues feel. It’s good but didn’t stand out as much as the first two tracks for me.
“Misgivings” comes next and hate doing this but the whole feel of the song puts me in mind of the work of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The keyboards and the horns and the jazz-funk feel do that – however, Simon’s distinctive vocals give it a blues tinge and again the backing vocals are superb. And frankly, being a big Steely Dan fan, I do love this song.
Next up is “Still Got Time To Be My Babe” which opens with some sublime guitar and by now I am starting to wonder if Simon is deliberately teasing the listener into thinking “this is unique, and superb, but it reminds me so much of …” I think that this is one of the reasons that I have taken so long to get this review done. I have listened to the album dozens of times and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to write what I thought without drawing constant comparisons. But then, I think is it really so bad for someone to say that the guitar on this track reminds me of Peter Green? Oh yes, and Steve Rowe's bass work is outstanding throughout but is very much a feature on this track.
“Brother” comes next, another solid track. And as I listen, I am reading Simon’s website where it says “… it won’t be as loud as some of the CDs you buy: it’s not compressed into oblivion. It contains a lot of detail and spacial imaging …” The next track “As Beautiful As You” a short acoustic guitar instrumental is proof of this, it is absolutely superb.
“Give Me A Reason” continues to delight as the album progresses. The backing vocals again stand out as a superb counterpoint to Simon’s lead vocals. The instrumental work is outstanding but the lyrics are equally well crafted and musically arranged with obvious love and care.
“Island of Rust” another good track, something of a wall of sound though for me compared to the “detail” of most of the other songs. “Let It Roll” is more enjoyable for me, as it has more space and detail!
Next comes “Princess” opens in a punchy way matching the high expectation levels that the album has set thus far. The guitar solo midway through the song is borderline heavy rock (and for this listener that’s not a bad thing!). I’ve not seen Simon play live yet, but I can imagine this song being a favourite in a live set.
The album closer is “All I Have Left” opens with an acoustic guitar and Simon singing. This is after all billed as a solo album. The backing vocals don’t come in too early, but when they do they are measured and in perfect sympathy with the feel of the song. About half-way through the the ten minutes of the track it morphs into …
A hidden thirteenth track which starts with the words “Leave That Child Alone”. The song has a slightly disturbing feeling to it – which I am pretty sure is the artist’s intention. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of hidden tracks, they tend to jolt me awake when I am listening to albums on my iPod in bed at night! I can’t criticise this track at all musically, it maintains the excellent standard of the whole album, but I would just have preferred the album to have ended at the end of “All I Have Left”. Of course, I could have completely misinterpreted this and it might be an integral part of the final song and if it does then who am I to question the artist eh?
Simon’s Website says “Well this is it, Simon’s first solo album in thirty six years of spanking the plank. It’s not blues, it’s not rock, it’s not folk; it is an eclectic mix that will take you on his very personal musical journey. Each song is written about real people, with real lives.” It also says “ThirtySix is an honest album and has many imperfections, but it is Simon Campbell, right now. We hope you enjoy it.”
Well I certainly did – I’d give it 9/10 and will make a point of getting to see Simon play live sooner rather than later.Simon Gledhill