Organ Thing Of The Day, A first listen to the new John Greaves album, he of Henry Cow and such.
John Greaves – Life Size (Manticore) – it all sounds rather beautiful actually, a lazy person would talk of Scott Walker, but that would be far far too easy, that would almost certainly be a little too lazy, so would a Peter Hammill reference, it would give you a vague idea in terms of where we are though, just a hint, a pointer, a sign post, nothing more than that, nothing more as we dance around architecture once more and attempt to describe music using little more than words A first listen to the new John Greaves album then, it landed here unexpectedly about hour or so ago – a first reaction, not a review, a first reaction, an immediate response
This is beautifully ornate, quietly operatic very easy on the ear, never obvious though, of course not, glowing arrangements, actually we’re jumping ahead here, things don’t get quietly operatic until three songs in, it is all rather beautiful from the off though, the first three pieces are rather beautiful. This is an album you clearly are going to have to really listen to, an album to immerse yourself in, this isn’t an album that will let you in easily, there’s a lot here, a lot to discover in the quiet simplicity, in the less is more beauty of it all The album actually opens with a rather beautiful duet sung in French, a rich song, a lush duet, voices and piano, warm strings, quiet, and clearly, as we move on to the second song, The Same Thing, this is going to be an album of songs, of voices, of words, of quietly beautiful details By the time we get to the almost raw simplicity of Earthly Powers, another rather special song, another duet, another slightly left-field less-is-more approach once again beautifully constructed, by the time we get to Earthly Powers we’ve been through several shades of experimentation or maybe just defiance of convention, defiance of convention within the structure of song, no not even that, just uniquely composed around the traditions of a fine song – just doing it differently, convention defying convention without being awkward about it.
It doesn’t sound that hard, it probably is, he/they just make it sound like it isn’t that hard, don’t ask me, I’m no musician, he does paint these things so well though, the detail is wonderful, the colour that’s just a little different without needing to be too different – this really is a beautiful album, a quietly beautiful collection of songs.. Still Life glows, there’s a lack of clutter, a quietly unobtrusive feel, that less is more approach again, something that demands you really listen to both the sounds and the words without ever being difficult or demanding, these songs aren’t bullying you, the invitation is warm, inviting, these songs are a pleasure. The words are simple, never repetitive, never just the same line again and again because someone once said that’s that how a song should be – repeat the line time after time, simple though, simple songs, uncluttered, La Lune Blanche is yet another shade, another quiet shade, almost still, hardly moving, while Sweetheart Goodbye is pretty much spoken word, rich warm spoken word, warm string and percussion. On to a second listen now and there’s so so much quiet colour in here, quiet colour, different colours, all so beautifully painted, all so rich, warm, sparsely detailed, beautifully detailed. clever but never a need to tell us how clever it is, never a need to show it off – minimal, understated, each sound important, as is the space between the sounds – space to breathe, rich, delicate, strong, refined, reflective. Mostly sung in English this time, opens in a beautifully French way though, a duet, there’s a touch of Italian later on, thought it was Welsh for a moment, and that last piece is a Dylan Thomas poem, wonderful.
The album flows as one very easy whole, you don’t really notice how different the songs actually are at first – nearly wrote tracks then, these are very definitely songs, far more than just tracks – some of it is very experimental, always about songs though, Kew Rhône is Real has a touch of King Crimson about it, or maybe a more relaxed Captain Beefheart, it isn’t the song Jakko Jakszyk plays on though, the Crimson guitarist plays on the song before that, on God Song – what on earth are you doing God? Is this some kind of joke you’re playing? Is it fun watching us all?, Turns out God Song is a Robert Wyatt song, fine fine version.
This isn’t a review you understand, this is a first reaction, a first morning spent with this new album, a first impression, third listen now and each time lots more revealed, actually as the end is reached for a third time that Dylan Thomas poem sounds so so good with that warm musical colour for a bed. Oh look, later in the day now and I’ve spent most of it with this album playing, and yes this is another of those gushing pieces that proper reviewers don’t write, this is a beautiful album, a wonderful set of songs, a quiet thing alive with so much colour, with quiet warmth, an album that glows, a rich treasure trove, an almost whispered thing, a special thing, a whole body of work, very much an album of songs. Oh look, just go an enjoy it, I’ll write a proper review someday, I just want to go enjoy it for now., a beautiful album. (sw)
The press release and the details….
Manticore Records is proud to announce the new album by Alternative music legend John Greaves, now a Manticore Records Artist
British bass guitarist and composer John Greaves, best known as a member of Henry Cow and his collaborative albums with Peter Blegvad is releasing a new album titled “Life Size” on Manticore Records on November 30, 2018. John was also a member of National Health and Soft Heap, and has recorded several solo albums, including “Accident” (1982), “Parrot Fashions” (1984), “The Caretaker” (2001) and “Greaves Verlaine” (2008).
Says Manticore Records president Max Marchini, “When Greg Lake wanted me to be the artistic director of the renaissance of Manticore he was very precise: ‘I don’t want Manticore to be nostalgic but respectful and helpful of any great talent, old or new. We don’t want to be a progressive only label but open to any kind of music for progressive it is not a genre but an intention’.
“It’s a great honour to be able to continue his quality control and tradition of perfectionism and creativity. And I am lucky enough to have trusting friends who help me and to share with projects: Regina Lake, Alberto Callegari at the amazing Elfo Recording Studios and Manticore artist Annie Barbazza. Our aim is to live up to Greg Lake’s vision and production skills with new albums that can match his demanding standards.
“I have been lucky enough to work with one of the most respected and talented British composers, Welsh-born John Greaves who is a true living legend in alternative music.”
John Greaves led the European avant-garde as a founder member of Henry Cow with Fred Frith and Lindsay Cooper, then his bass was the driving force in bands like National Health and Love Of Life Orchestra. He played with Brian Eno, Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield, Michael Nyman, Penguin Café Orchestra, Carla Bley and Michael Mantler just to mention a few.
In recent years he has produced albums for the French classical label Harmonia Mundi for Radio France of composition upon words of Paul Verlaine and for Dark Companion a precious critically acclaimed live album called “Piacenza”. He appears on the new Sony relate of Gabrie Fauré songs “Ici-bas”. His songwriting partnership with Slapp Happy’s Peter Blegvad gave birth to gems like “Bad Alchemy”, “How Beautiful You Are “ and “The Song”.
On his new album “Life Size”he shares the vocals with a remarkable cast. Three fabulous, uniquely different female voices: Valérie Gabail, Annie Barbazza, Himiko Paganotti and Greaves himself sing a collection of songs in French, English and Italian, moving from pure pop thru Debussy-esque Apollinaire to sensual spoken-word; there’s even a song by Robert Wyatt, an old friend from way back when. The line-up of musicians is equally stellar: Olivier Mellano and Jakko Jakksyk (from King Crimson) on guitars, Vincent Courtois on cello, Zeena Parkins on harp, Matthieu Rabaté on drums.
“Life Size” features new compositions and the revisiting of old ones into a new, breathtaking contemporary and classical style, featuring some of the most acclaimed international musicians. Treat yourself to a very special musical journey.
Says Max, “’Life Size’ is an album of stunning beauty and inner grace and sure will be a classic for the future, and intended to be the logical sequel to the critically acclaimed ‘Songs’, which, by the way, has been remastered at our Elfo Studios to state of the art sound quality and re-issued by Dark Companion Records.”
‘Life Size” was recorded and mastered to exemplary sound standards in audiophile premium coloured vinyl and golden high-end CDs. This first pressing will be of 1,000 CD and 500 vinyl only.