Angel Air 2018
Looking through time and finding his rhyme, English artist tells us what he’s found.
If THE REFORM CLUB’s second album "Never Yesterday" was rather upbeat, the band’s leader Baker opted to investigate the secrets of opposite direction by going solo for a while, and “Staying Blue” is the resullt of this tangent. Former Minister of State, Norman may know the state of the world and can run through enticing variety of retro styles, yet he doesn’t make it all deliberately patinated; quite the contrary, he evokes specters of the past to make them come alive in the most captivating way. There’s some fantastic storytelling in the likes of “Shipping Forecast” – whose accordion-kissed verses could be descended from the same port sources as Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam” – and poetry in “Bell Bottom Breeze” which is exquisitely delicate, the singer’s slightly tremulous voice stitching sensual prognosis to the meter of waltz, but it’s warm sincerity that keeps the listener in their seats.
Not for nothing there’s a call-out to Mr. Metronome in the crooning of “Nice And Loose” which is set to the old-timey acoustic backing, whereas the folksy fiddle and lap steel drive “It Cuts No Ice” and its “Que Sera, Sera” reference towards sweet fatalism, so time is fluid here. That’s why “Lowdown Blues” – which is limited to vocals and guitar – has a high-ground hope in the piece’s heart, as does the raw plea of “Just Stay Blue” pouring out sadness to make room for purer, albeit harp-smeared, plans: Norman needs a solid point to hold on to. While Brighton Pier from the record’s cover is rather rigid, “Slipping Through My Fingers” will find Baker doubting the permanence of his personal stability and looking for the glorious trumpets of freedom in other waters. Spanish drama behind “The Woman In Grey” and the delicious serenade in “The Belly Of The Beast” should provide him with emotional anchor, yet the unplugged encore “Perhaps” is able to locate it in simple truths.
Whether this might be the reason to stay blue is open to debate, but if the way to blue is so alluring it’s better to follow the lead.