My new album, The Book On Love, was released on Friday 27th May. It is available to order on Limited Edition CD from Subjangle via my Bandcamp page. There are some copies left, but once they’re gone, that's it; the label won’t be doing a second run.
Chapter One: Penelope Please
This song was inspired, musically, by early Belle and Sebastian and The Velvet Underground. It’s a semi-autobiographical tale of school-age unrequited love, although I never knew anybody named Penelope. My wife plays the recorder part on this.
Chapter Two: The Circle
This has musical influences from Badfinger and Wings (you can probably guess the tracks) and features my friend Tom Moose on mandolin. Tom lives in L.A. but we were able to collaborate by the power of the world wide web. It’s a song encouraging us to see through the lies we tell ourselves to prevent us from reflecting on our mortality. Danny Kirwan’s song, “Dust”, was also an influence.
Chapter Three: Blue Star
Blue Star was written by my friend Richard Bousfield and I have loved it ever since he first played it to me. We used to perform it in our short-lived band, The Bearfield Commune, about a decade ago. I have wanted to record it for ages. I was hoping that my friend Amy Jarvis would be able to sing the lead vocals with me, as she did when we played it with the Commune, but we couldn’t get our diaries to align, sadly. My mate Joe Brown added a lovely harmony line in the last chorus, however.
Chapter Four: Lost Ground
This song again has Badfinger and Wings influences. I was attempting to write something in the vein of “Rock Show” after buying a handmade guitar that was perfect for slide. It was a replica of Brian Jones’ white 1960s Vox Teardrop guitar and was set up with a high action. It’s about the period in my life when I had to move schools at the age of fourteen and went from a huge, multi-cultural city comprehensive in Cardiff to a tiny secondary school in the middle of Gloucestershire where most of my classmates were members of the Young Farmers and wore wellies constantly. It was only later in life that I realised how devastating it was for me to lose touch with all my childhood friends overnight. The one saving grace was that I had auditioned as the lead singer for a band in Cardiff just before I left and had picked up the music bug. One of the first things I did in Gloucestershire was to learn to play bass and form a group with “one or two friends [who] had a spark for life” and I’m pleased to say that I’m still making music with them today (Hugh Lyford and Richard Kilbey, who both appear on Kaleidoscope).
Chapter Five: Until Tomorrow
I was attempting to write a song in the vein of the early Bee Gees with this one but the feedback I’ve received about it suggests I completely failed in this goal! The album was mixed by Dominic Bailey-Clay at Nine Volt Leap Studios in Melksham and after he’d finished working on this song, Dom said, “This is the most Neil Young I’ve heard you.” It’s a massive compliment, of course, but not one I was expecting! Lyrically, there’s obviously a bit of a nod to “Dear Prudence”, but it’s really about living in the moment despite the many travails of modern living. Life is short, we need to enjoy it where and when we can.
Chapter Six: Happy
The bouncy, up-beat shuffle of this song belies the bitter theme about a relationship gone wrong. Got a long history with this type of beat; it’s my favourite - probably from listening to so much Quo at a young age!
Chapter Seven: San Sebastián
This was the last song recorded for the album. It was meant to sound like The Byrds, originally. I don’t own a twelve-string guitar, so I had to painstakingly double track the riff an octave higher to imitate the sound. However, as soon as I laid the bass part down, I realised it required a disco beat and it morphed into something completely different. I added to the seventies vibe by trying to emulate Ernie Isley’s lead guitar sound on “That Lady” in the solo. Superficially, it’s about a car breaking down on a road trip from San Sebastián to Santiago de Compostela, but it’s also about spiritual salvation.
Chapter Eight: Walking Away
This is a song about self-discovery and the inner child; about choosing to walk away from violence of all kinds, including towards oneself. The drum pattern is deliberately evocative of Elliott Smith’s “Waltz #2”.
Chapter Nine: Beatified
A number of the songs on The Book On Love were written prior to the recording of my previous album, Kaleidoscope; namely the title track, “Walking Away” and this one. This is about an overwhelming 'spiritual' experience I had when I woke up one morning when I was about twenty-one years old, which I don’t really understand, or am able to talk about eloquently, to this day. Afterwards, however, these words of Julian of Norwich made complete sense to me: “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” File under: “Shiny Happy People” meets “All Along The Watchtower”.
Chapter Ten: The Book on Love
This is the song that got me started on the idea of making an album of songs about relationships and tying it up together design-wise in the form of a book. I wanted to produce a more unified work, at least thematically, in contrast to the deliberately eclectic nature of Kaleidoscope. Relationships are hard work, particularly ‘romantic’ ones, so I was confident that many people could relate to the lyrics of this one!
Chapter Eleven: Magpie
If you have joined The Book Club on my website, you’ll have heard some of the demos of songs that didn’t make it on to the finished album. I am currently reading Rob Young’s excellent book ‘Electric Eden’ about the British Folk-Rock tradition and consequently have been listening to many of the bands and artists he mentions: Fairport, the Incredible String Band, Trees, Tír na nÓg. I envisaged that The Book On Love would end up very much a pastoral affair under the influence of these artists. It hasn’t really turned out like that though because I ended up discarding most of the folk-influenced tunes I’d written – mainly because I just couldn’t get them to sound right when I recorded them in my home studio. My feeling is that they need to be recorded in a more organic way, probably with a band and ideally in an English country house somewhere. My fantasy venues include Benifold in Hampshire where Fleetwood Mac lived in the early seventies and Clearwell Castle in the Forest of Dean, home to Badfinger and their families for a few months in 1971. Anyway, the one song that did survive the cull was this one which was influenced by Vashti Bunyan, Donovan and, more obviously, Paul McCartney.
If you would like to comment about any of the songs on The Book On Love, I’d love to know your thoughts. Cheers!