Demon 2008 / Angel Air 2015
Ageless singer reconfigures his timeline to make the future meet his past – here and now.
For most of artists pulling their old works into a new context signals the lack of material; for Steve Ellis it spells integrity and a return to his roots in order to start another affair. The veteran won’t admit it, though, as he suggests in the communion of “Modesty,” this album’s humble centerpiece, breaking down its title the way Aretha did for “Respect” and, thus, casting a different kind of spell on the record, an optimistic one. Yet there’s much richer palette to it which lays out the whole emotional spectrum between the finale of “Best Of Days” and “Everlasting Love” that swung things in the motion both in 1968, when Steve became a star, and in 2001, when Paul Weller called Ellis up to join him on stage where a tender tapestry emerged out of the singer’s perennial.
That live rendition closes this reissue of the collection which was prepared for a 2004 release but saw the light of day only four years later, while, taken to the studio, the slowed-down hit opens it with a gloomy glimmer whose flickers are reflected in “El Doomo” from the ELLIS lore as Steve soars to the dramatic heights to look back at the journey he’s been on. Getting there, still, means covering the distance from songs of innocence to those of experience, and Steve measures it in “As The Crow Flies” where Nigel Glockler’s drum samples add intensity to the piece’s throb. More so, taking off requires soulful lightness that Ellis finds in Weller’s “Brand New Start,” its acoustic guitar and piano outlining the purity of the singer’s resolution that seeps through the gospel-tinged chorus of “Step Inside” on which The Modfather joins the original mod. In the sign-of-the-time spirit, the tight desperation behind “Nu Clear Blues” is spiked with a harp played by Ellis’ old friend and ELLIS producer Roger Daltrey, and the sweet pain of “Heavens Word” – dedicated to Peter Green – comes hidden under a coat of brass and a hoarse voice.
Down to earth, the prairie pining is what “Requiem For A Tyrant” gets high on for Steve’s vocals to show their lucid transparency, but the drift gets warm in “Turn To Stone” which fathoms the passing of years in the miles of intimate gratitude to life itself. That’s what the whole of this album is all about, the songs’ joie de vivre spilling over into its follow-up "Ten Commitments": that’s the everlasting love.