Like for so many others, Wonderful Life is a mainstay of not only all-time favourite albums but also our weekly listening pleasure at The RingMaster Review. Its creator Black, the musical non de plume of Colin Vearncombe, has continued to incite ears and the passions since that triumph’s release in 1987, through over ten studio albums under the Black moniker and the musician/songwriter’s his own name alone, yet still that album steals the show of our personal pleasures. Now though it has a rival in the shape of the magnetic seduction of Blind Faith, Vearncombe’s first release of new songs in six years. It is a melodic smoulder and emotional caress of thirteen diverse and captivating propositions which potently reminds us that their composer is still one of Britain’s most imaginative and persistently compelling songwriters and artists.
Blind Faith was co-written with long-time friend and musical sparring partner Calum MacColl, the son of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl and brother of the wonderful Kirsty. Recruiting a host of talented musicians to help its recording, and with Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile/Prefab Sprout) producing, Vearncombe brings all his emotively description skills to bear from the opening seconds of first track The Love Show. A sombre yet joyful acoustic melody hits ears first, swiftly courted by a kiss of strings and in turn the ever distinct voice of Vearncombe. In no time the track is a blossoming breeze of melodic enterprise, recalling the early days of Black whilst conjuring a new evocative croon in sound and texture. The melancholy of the song is gorgeous yet its atmosphere is simultaneously the complete opposite of that, warmth and tantalising lightness providing one endearing kiss on the senses.
The sensational start is continued by the vibrant saunter of Don’t Call Me Honey, a mix of country and folk revelry colluding in a catchy escapade swiftly in control of imagination and appetite. The swinging beats of drummer Liam Bradley are aligned to the slightly darker but no less energetic tones of bass from Simon Edwards, their combined magnetic spine the keenest lure in the dance of the song. The proposition’s riveting call is matched by the distinctly different Good Liar, a slow stroll of vocal reflection embraced by guitar bred melodies courtesy of MacColl and a mesmeric wash of keys cast by Mikey Rowe. Ears almost float in the croon of the song before being taken on a wonderful dramatic ride in Sleep Together. This treat has a melody rich hook which is like a fine wine on the creative menu of the song and just as potent on the senses as the real thing, additionally bewitching them in the eventful mesmerism already fuelling the captivation.
Womanly Panther has the same kind of theatre to it, this time in the shape of a siren-esque sixties flame. The imagination swiftly runs with the song’s suggestiveness as vocal harmonies are hugged by ever expressive strings. Thoughts conjure images of cosmopolitan temptresses on the French Riviera, a vision only encouraged by the tones and words of Vearncombe. It is another pinnacle in the increasingly thrilling Blind Faith and yet another unique proposal in its diversity, as indeed is Who You Are with its gentle embrace. Once more a whisper of nostalgia engages ears as the song’s chorus unveils a melody and vocal lure reminiscent of early Black enticements. Around this though there is a sultry climate which is almost surf rock like in a hazy complexion which has ears and emotions spellbound.
The following Sunflower is a slightly longer to ignite smoulder but from its first breath keys and Vearncombe’s tones cup ears in potent reflection before slipping away and being replaced by the just as emotively tenacious Not The Man. As it broadens its embrace, a more lively energy flows through the track’s sound and presence, and in turn the listener setting them up perfectly for the country rock spiced and new single Ashes Of Angels. Though another slimline song in textures, there is never a lack of thick melodic ingenuity and creative adventure to any Black song within Blind Faith, and equipped with a virulent contagion of vocal and musical hooks, the song sets itself up as just one more irresistible triumph.
The smoky emotion and tone of Stone Soup holds attention firmly next whilst the eloquent orchestral grace and provocative hues of When It’s Over has ears and thoughts bound with its contrast of soaring keys and strings against a grumbling bassline. Both though are over shadowed by the closing pair of Beautiful and Parade, the first, of course, living up to its title with a shimmering reflection of voice and guitar whilst the second unveils a celestial weave of melodies aligned to matching vocal prowess, the vocals of Vearncombe ever the strongest persuasive lure. It is a sensational close to an exceptional release which definitely flirts with the description classic.
Listening to Blind Faith brings back some of the same emotions felt listening to Wonderful Life way back in time and ever since, and that realising tingle of something special having just seduced ears and more. Colin Vearncombe’s first album is still the unrivalled Black album for us but Blind Faith is right there by its side as an essential proposition for all melodic rock/pop fans.
Blind Faith is available now via Nero Schwarz Limited @ http://www.colinvearncombe.com/music/blind-faith/
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