A survivor from the art rock scene of the 80s, he’s documented the times in his latest album, inspired by and spanning stories and characters from Halifax in West Yorkshire to Notting Hill, the first up being Halifax Gala Queen, about a faded beauty queen who also happened to be his babysitter in the 60s. It begins with a spoken passage before blossoming into an initially acoustic Bowiesque feel circa Space Oddity and, from there, building into electric Floydian swells. Halifax is also home to Jack Brown, a notorious bouncer from the Mixenden estate, a fractured track of discordant piano, spoken lines, clattering drums, beeps and whistles and layered vocals. A lush Godley-Creme styled strings-backed 70s ballad with echoey vocals, Room At The Top is about the Woolshops, a deprived area of Halifax that was home to the town’s Irish community, while Spirit of Ogden, about a reservoir that was a popular local camping spot, is more prog with its spoken lines, strings, swelling harmonies and big anthemic guitars.
The Halifax set ends with the reflective and emotionally yearning Mixenden I’m Coming Home, a simple acoustic guitar, strings and piano ballad that again opens with a spoken passage about the Wheatley and St Malachy communities of his childhood that gives way to a choral title refrain. Then it’s off to Notting Hill with Satori In The Sky, the musical mood switching to a rowdy 70s art rock rock swagger before the appropriately Bowiesque Basquiat and Warhol which, with spoken passages interspersing the sung lines to a steady slow march beat, documents the New York exhibition organised by a friend from Notting Hill.
Accompanied by gypsy accordion, the spoken memoir Still Howling reflects on The Poetry Olympics of 1965 while, backed by piano, The Busking Bodhisatta looks back on trying to keep body and soul together on the streets of Notting Hill Gate. Finally, it closes with the swaying cabaret, mazurka-styled Anita Pallenberg, a tribute to the Italian actress who starred in Performance and was a former girlfriend of Keith Richards. The sleeve notes rather unfortunately mention that she can still be seen biking round the area, Pallenberg having died on June 13, after the CD went to press. Common’s an acquired and perhaps rather limited taste, but anyone with shared memories of the period or a fondness for the Bowie and Velvets sounds of the area will appreciate this.