Album review: TOM TOOMEY – Turquoise

Pete Feenstra chatted to Tom Toomey in his Feature show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sunday 25 February 2018, including tracks from ‘Turquoise’.

TOM TOOMEY – Turquoise

Giant Records [Release date 06.01.18]

Tom Toomey is best known as the guitarist with The Zombies, though as a session musician he’s also played with the likes of Jon Anderson, Colin Blunstone and Paul Young. And it’s perhaps his diverse musical background that goes some way to explaining this hugely accomplished album with a broad musical sweep.

Rooted in fusion, ‘Turquoise’ also embraces pop, jazz, Latino, rock, blues and world music. It’s a refreshingly upbeat album that builds from its fusion foundations to revel in the art of song craft.

The ten tracks include a radio single and alternate between deep grooves, uplifting songs, intricate dynamics and fine band interplay, all of which serves to showcase Toomey’s acoustic-into-electric solo’s.

There’s barely a note wasted here, on a coherent set of songs that flow beautifully and subtly ushers the listener into a musical journey that you would quickly want to revisit.

Given the fact there’s a roster of some 19 musicians, including 5 keyboard contributions, 2 bass players and 5 vocal parts, it’s obviously an album with a lot of pre-prep. And it’s that attention to detail that gives ‘Turquoise ‘ its depth, while Tom’s own bristling contributions brings verve, vision and vitality.

There’s no sense of joining the dots, as it’s an uplifting album with an organic feel that strikes a deft balance between a warm production and visceral interplay.

It opens with the very 70′s sounding fusiony synth and guitar work of ‘Sozan’.  There’s lovely contrast between the instrumental freneticism (perhaps reflecting one translation of the song title as  ”passion” or “fervour”) and crisp percussive work, before Melissa Kaplan’s voice evokes Flora Purim on an air brushed piece with a splendid unexpected coda.

Toomey quickly transform the musical landscape to evoke Pat Metheny’s melodic bent and focus on the gentle title track, while on his first vocal outing on ‘Whatever The Time’, he slips to a whispered conversational Knopfler style phrasing with angelic bv’s over a Latino influenced shuffle-beat rhythm with dappled piano.

It’s Toomey’s willingness to explore a broad array of musical influences and fashion them to his own ends that gives this album its unique feel.

Listen to the big choral arrangement of ‘Sanctus’ with opera singer William Purefoy, as it moves into the resolving guitar solo, or the clever use of Melissa Kaplan’s voice and the subtle tonal colour (John Devine features on Uillean pipes) of ‘Feather, Bone And Ash’, for confirmation of Toomey’s ability as an arranger with real vision.

The cool jazz undertones of ‘Innocent Love ‘ is another highlight, as a melange of cool brushstrokes, yearning bass, drifting piano and uplifting harmonies lead to a dirt-toned guitar solo. It could almost be Steely Dan meets Zappa on a triumph of space, time and dynamics.

And as if to emphasize  the album’s linear flow, Toomey finishes with the synth-driven dance track ‘World To Life’, which is an ode to David Bowie.

The track is notable for the way it suddenly leaps from a hypnotic groove into an uplifting hook to finish with the cryptic Bowie reference: “‘The Man who sold the World’ to’ Major Tom’.”

Such in the pull of the song that the repeated track – a closing edited single – perfectly book-ends an album you can’t wait to hear again.

‘Turquoise’ , beguiles, sparkles and is an early contender for one of the best albums of the year so far. ****½

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 23 August 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 25 August 2020.

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