Viral Discs 2018
Wisdom-spreading British axeman takes a trip to the crossroads in search of temptation and reports from the edge of desire.
Once in a while since SAGE’s return with "Emergence" in 2014, after a four-decade hiatus, Paul Brett is out to prove wrong those who say he went acoustic and miss the guitarist’s electric aspect. The two sides of the veteran’s manner has long been going hand in hand, though, as illustrated here by the sinister presence of “The Oval Portrait” which originally appeared on "The Raven" – a musical reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories – yet is serving a different sort of context on “The Devil’s Whisper” where the dread and the dead seem to be much more entertaining. Still, when there’s a charge, this artist’s works emanate much more colors.
From the effervescent funk of the title track that wraps prog-minded rumination on existence in an insistent array of kaleidoscopic strings, to instrumental “Drifting” which exquisitely links it all to English tradition and rhythm-and-blues, Brett’s songs are full of joie de vivre – despite the record’s subject. Throughout the album, his vocals imbue simple truths with optimism and fatalism in equal measure, and his solos on pieces such as “Gunfighters” sting with tension and release, while the kindred-spirits band add assault to inquiry on the light rock ‘n’ roll anthem “From The Cradle To The Grave” or riff-laden “Life On Earth” which is given a fusion slant by Mel Collins’ saxes.
“The Ballad Of Charlie Peace” referring to a famous criminal and “Sun” projecting stark delight may show the breadth of Paul’s romantic method, especially in bringing patinated images into the present, but he shows a lot vehemence in the brief “Someone” to channels anger at the world’s affairs into folk balladry – rendered even more impressive by the playfully solemn Renaissance-like lace of “Happy Bunnies” that’s placed next to it. So if the calmly belligerent “Don’t Believe A Word” and flamingly reserved “Inferno” create a different kind of contrast, the resulting focus is difficult to shake off once the tunes stop. This aftertaste has to be the real Devil’s whisper.