A New Day 1997 / Talking Elephant 2021
Folk-rock elite flock en masse to celebrate a life-long friendship in a flight of fantasy.
They may have gone their own separate ways, these two Birmingham pals, one to worldwide fame as a member of JETHRO TULL and the other to quiet existence away from the spotlight, yet Martin Barre and John Carter remained close and music remain a constant for both of them. So when the latter had finally decided his songs deserved to be heard across the waves, the former was there for him with an instrumental support and a few mates in tow. What resulted from quite an intimate intent, reflect their love for traditional lore, offering at the same time a tasty layer of fantastic bombast – nuanced in folksy way and punchy in AOR vein.
From the squealing riff and soft vocals of “The Student” onwards, this album is as rivetingly warm as only a communion of kindred spirits can be, the creaky caress of Jonathan Noyce and Dave Pegg’s basses embellishing and propelling the eleven pieces to a very earthly place where sweet, if never saccharine, choruses fill the listener’s ears with effervescent sonic energy. It’s not the case of big guns firing in the name of a lesser hero, though, as Carter’s melodies and voice are of a professional caliber, and while numbers like the record’s pulsating title track that’s high on six-string harmonies or “Winter Setting” whose space Paul Burgess’ drums and Nigel Neill’s keyboards expand to let in a lot of fresh air exude a period charm, such heartfelt cuts as the tremulous “I Can’t Forget” and “No Easy Way” which features Barre’s flute and brief passages of soaring guitar aim for timelessness.
With Fairporter Chris Leslie’s violin spicing up the acoustic serenade “Melody Of Words” and electric rock ‘n’ reel “Don’t Mess Around With Me” that see Martin in absentia, the album’s spiritual apex still comes with the irresistible “Laugh It Off” – an anthem of impressive amplitude, given a touch of reggae at the end – but the effusive pop of “Exciting Eyes” seems just as magnetic. Contrasting it, the lace of “I’ll Make A Stand This Time” feels rather ethereal, the equally pellucid “Your Dry Land” would be too anticlimactic a finale had a slider roll not taken the drift to the future – closer to eternity, the free spirits’ port of call.