Album review: THE JAN HOLBERG PROJECT – Sense Of Time, At Your Service

The Jan Holberg Project - Sense Of Time

Sense Of Time (2011)

Norwegian bassist Jan Holberg has a good philosophy outlined in his liner notes to 2011′s ‘Sense Of Time’: that with music there should be no boundaries.  So in his first ‘solo’ venture he explores AOR and funk/fusion and enlists the stellar vocal assistance of Joe Lynn Turner.

This project does suggest that decent singers will do anything for a pay cheque, because – critically – the album is lightweight and I am sure Turner struggled with some of the lyrical concepts.  It therefore doesn’t particularly enhance JLT’s  portfolio and listeners are advised to seek out his recent work under the Sunstorm moniker.

Stilted? Well, it is probably something to do with an American singing songs written in English by a Norwegian.   Something gets lost in translation, but a ballad like ‘Sorry’ never really lifts off and ditto the mid-tempo ‘Heart Of Summer’ even though this remains one of the stronger tracks.

Because there is absolutely no solo instrumentation (an angry guitar or swooping keyboard for instance), the focus is very much on the vocal and the lyrics.  ‘Vision Of Lust’ is a good example.  Holberg doesn’t seem to know about the middle-eight and the song is a bit rubbish.

It is unsurprising that Jan Holberg seems most comfortable on the jazz funk instrumentals ‘The Meadow’  and ‘Mother Nature’ which are outstanding.   Evidently a talented musician but, as with many similar projects, no light and shade and no strict producer – or a kindly friend – tapping the shoulder.  **1/2

The Jan Holberg Project - At Your Service

At Your Service (Nordic Records, 2013)

“Name” guest artists are no replacement for inadequate songwriting but it will always be a devious marketing method to get wider attention, not least among the guest artist’s own fans.  In the two years since Holberg’s solo debut has he moved on at all?

JLT is on board again (but only three tracks), along with Rainbow alumni Tony Carey (keys) on two tracks.

The opener ‘Waters Rising’ seems to have potential.  But in truth the production is far too polite and the song fails to lift off.  The funky undertow continues with ‘Battle Of Your Heart’ but again reveals the weakness of the lyrics.

And that’s pretty much the template, the album is only marginally stronger than its predecessor and has all the same faults.  Only the ballad ‘Jealousy And Pride’ is worthy of  repeated scrutiny while mid-tempo rockers ‘Outta My Face’ and ‘Shady Haze Of Grey’ (with Wig Wam’s Age Sten Nilsen on vocals)  are a bit naff.

The funk continues on ‘Sensuality’ and ’21 Red’ but both songs (the latter voiced by Carey) are distinctly average.

The one other highlight ‘When Push Comes To Shove’ is sung by Nilsen and, although the penultimate track, has a bit more urgency although the guitar break is limp-wristed.  Once again, it’s the instrumental – ‘I Still Remember’ – that shows where Holberg’s strengths and appeal really lie:  a highly melodic and engaging piece with no words!  ***

Reviews by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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