TGB [Release date 14.06.13]
Tom Gee is a fine white boy soul singer with a big band line-up that given the laid back nature of this 5 track EP sometimes feels like an extravagance. For most of the well crafted material comprises a bunch of heartfelt love songs with layered band parts.
It’s the sort of music that is best heard in small doses to make the biggest impact, whether via his breathy vocals or the delicate horn parts.
The EP starts promisingly with opening brace of tracks, but ultimately loses its impetus over 5 tracks that are far too similar in nature. And that is a shame as Tom Gee’s soulful voice has an expressive quality that draws you in with his whispered phrasing.
Having established his ability as an effortless soul singer with an impressive big band on the title tack, things get a little more funky on the horn led ‘Shake’, the title of which appears to bear little relationship to the songs lyrics.
His relationship songs work backwards from disappointment and disillusionment to optimistic love songs like ‘Little Smile’, which is a beautifully constructed track full of real feel and subtle dynamics. It’s a gently voiced song on which the vocal intro sounds a bit like Daryl Hall and aims for a late night radio slot.
You could imagine the song working as a book-end to a full album rather than in the middle of 5 tracks that are simply too similar.
As it is, it sets the standard for a vocalist who appears equally happy immersed in introspective moments as he is soaring with his marvellous horn section. A shame then that he opts for two more laid back love songs, which provide a suitable showcase for his soulful voice, but don’t nearly engage us enough, or at least not as much as the opening three tracks.
Tom Gee is blessed with the ability to phrase evocatively and make the most of delicate pauses and accented phrases, but even he must be aware of the similarity of subject matter and the arrangement of ‘You Got Me’ with what’s gone before.
The crisp percussion and subtle horn filled groove is momentarily ripped asunder by a startling burst of frenetic horn and guitar activity, before the song returns to the groove. It’s a moment that suggests the band themselves realised the need for moment of dynamic contrast.
There’s room for one more fine horn arrangement on ‘Listen To Yourself’, with another polished production that almost diverts your attention away from some sugary lyrics.
‘Better Things To Do’ is an impressive debut by an expressive singer and a capable big band that has the ability to bring real presence to bear on his material. You just hope that the 5 songs will eventually find a home on an album that offers just a little more light and shade. ***
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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