Rodney Matthews Studios 2019
Unfolding Yuletide for all seasons, two masters of fantastic imagery take their sound and vision through the looking glass.
There are plenty cuts of this Christmas carol, so one requires a lot of guts to join the throng and stand out, yet same can be said of Rodney Matthews’ wish to revive his old dream and become a drummer – without leaving his illustrious career as an artist whose works adorn the sleeves of many a classic record – and the veteran dared to venture there. But if enlisting old friend Oliver Wakeman as a collaborator able to flesh out any musical idea may feel natural, it was for the sake of fantasy flight, rather than for comfort, so their joint effort sees the familiar tune turned into something spiritual and adventurous at the same time – for all time.
As evergreen as a popular piece must be, the appeal of “In The Bleak Midwinter” is not limited to Yuletide anymore. Matthews’ percussive cool and Wakeman’s orchestral ivories grow in scope under Charlotte Dickerson and Miv Cameron’s vocals until their steady, albeit lighthearted, flow gains heaviness once David Mark Pearce’s guitar assault has upped the number’s inherent drama to an extent where complex interplay and emotional sway are almost unbearably vivid. It’s then that acoustic passages emerge, a six-string strum lulling Pete Coleman’s recorder and bringing the original quiet, given a prominent piano line, back into focus.
With alternative mixes for different edits added to the disc, this single signals the start of Rodney’s alternative art route which would produce spectacular results later.