Album review: BEN POOLE – Anytime You Need Me

BEN POOLE – Anytime You Need Me

Manhaton Records [Release date 14.09.18]

‘Anytime You Need Me’ is a very accessible, funk laden album with one eye firmly on the mainstream.

From the hook led title track, through 10 groove laden cuts which come to rest on the rolling momentum of the post Hendrix meets grunge guitar of ‘Holding On’, ‘Anytime You Need Me’ gives Ben Poole all the ammunition he needs to make a significant impact.

The thing that might stand in his way is that a lot of the material sounds similar to artists who have already made their mark.

The album gently percolates and bubbles up on 8 well crafted songs and two confidently played covers, of which The Eagles ‘Dirty Laundry’ highlights the distance between Poole’s current style and his ultimate musical ambitions.

Intuitively produced by Wayne Proctor, ‘Anytime You Need Me’ is a melange of subtle moods, deep grooves, significant solos and lingering tones that glue together an album that relies heavily on feel. But it’s the band’s seamless interplay and Poole’s own tonal colours rather than his vocal that makes an emotional connection.

He does have a very soulful voice that at different time evokes the confessional mood of John Mayer, the falsetto white boy soul of Mayer Hawthorne – stopping just short of the androgynous phrasing of Daly –  while he occasionally nuances the new soul direction of Jonny Lange. The only thing missing is his own DNA.

His guitar playing varies from the crisp and incisive to the kind of grungy and distorted buzz tones favoured by Gary Clark Jr. And it’s the twin pillars of funk and soul built on subtle dynamics and his softly voiced vocals that hold this album together.

All the different elements combine tastefully as part of a funky palette that embraces different tempos, but it’s on the laid back Steve Wright penned Don’t Cry for Me’ that he excels. It’s the moment when the album relaxes on a beautiful song that finds its own space and time and gives BP the context well suited to his talents.

Gentle drifting guitar notes float and hover effortlessly, while his vocal is more natural sounding on a beguiling hook that could be the sound of the summer.

He sets out his stall on the funky slick opening title track with a slight tempo change on the hook. The staccato phrased lyrics flow into two contrasting solos, as his high pitched floaty vocals border on falsetto.

He toughens things up on the sludgy mid tempo ‘Take It No More’, while ‘You Could Say’ is organ-laden poppy funk. A slight pause ushers in unexpected ascending Allman Brothers style solo that builds up with great purpose, before shadowing the melody on the outro.

His opts for a more conversational Mark Knopfler style tone on the excellent ‘Found Out The Hard Way’. The laid back tempo, whispered vocal and big guitar resolution that fades a shade too soon could be The Eagles.

Up until this moment, all the guitar solos feel like an integral part of his aural palette, while on this solo it feels as if he’s stepping out, until the fade.

He builds up the tension again on the tightly wrapped funk of ‘Further On Down the Line’, on a train time rhythm that draws us into the snappy hook and some nicely contrasting tone on a brief solo.

He’s good with arrangements too, most notably on Jude Cole’s ‘Start The Car’ on which he substitutes lilting funk for rock and strut to good effect.

A combination of funky catchy hooks, soulful vocals and expansive guitar work gives ‘Anytime You Need Me’ real crossover potential. And in this age of download culture Ben Poole has a handful of tracks that might give him the breakthrough this thoughtfully crafted album deserves.  **** 

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

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