Friday, December 21, 2007

British Ballads

British Ballads by Anthony Reynolds is a pastoral affair set mainly in the domestic sphere. Not that this is a small scale effort you understand, on the contrary it frequently scales epic heights.

Opening track I Know You Know is a lush syncopated ballad that signals the decline of a relationship. The confessional tone continues in Those Kind of Songs.

House-husbands will be delighted by Bread and Wine and A Quiet Life both of which extol the virtues of staying indoors. The latter tune wittily listing the pitfalls of venturing forth into the outside world: dog shit, children, and rude shop assistants all lay in wait for the unsuspecting agoraphobe.

The ominous and unsettling Country Girl wouldn't feel out of place on a Nick Cave album. It's a pastoral tale but as any reader worth their salt will tell you there is always danger lurking in the undergrowth. Vashti Bunyan's breathy vocal only adds to the eeriness.

The Disappointed is simply wonderful. A soaring, cinematic ballad of failure and doomed romance - it really is an absolute jaw-dropper of a tune. A tolling bell sounding like the death-knell of every hope and dream you've ever cherished. It sounds as though Reynolds has got the London Philharmonic in for this one but it's actually just Fiona Brice doing a great job on strings.

Where the Dead Live is another ballad on the grand scale. The impact here though is less immediate, the song somewhat undermined by its rambling baroque structure. It's a grower mind and at going to press it is steadily insinuating its way into my affections.

Step forward Colin Wilson, famed writer on the occult and celebrity tent-dweller. Wilson here lends his venerable vocal to Rupert Brooke's famous poem The Hill. For his part Reynolds adds eerie sonic doodlings to the track creating a textually interesting, otherworldly piece.

Just So You Know is another lush orchestral number - this time a dreamy love song dripping with melancholy and regret. Once again Reynolds is aided and abetted by Vashti Bunyan with former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde also lending a helping hand.

The record ends appropriately enough with a Song of Leaving. Stylistically too this is a departure being the only conventional pop song on the album. It reminds me of Aztec Camera and Pulp in its melodic breeziness. And despite the sorrow of parting an energetic and defiant way to conclude proceedings.

British Ballads is unashamedly romantic, frequently melodramatic, occasionally overblown (in the Brel/Diamond sense) but, god forbid, never dull. Once again Anthony Reynolds has proved himself to be a songwriter of considerable talent.

*British Ballads by Anthony Reynolds is released by Hungry Hill records and is on sale now.