Top Stop Music [Release date 27.09.19]
‘Laurence Jones Band’ is a career departure for the former rock-blues hero who makes a major pitch for the pop market.
They say the most significant thing about the blues genre is that historically it’s been a catalyst for forging new music, from the Stones through to present day icons such as Gary Clark Jr. and John Mayer. And the award winning Laurence Jones is arguably the next blues- rock artist to morph into a crossover artist.
This album is built on a succession of grooves, catchy hooks, tight band interplay and uplifting solos, all bolstered by a magisterial rhythm section.
The opening uplifting chorus on ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ - a boisterous meeting of early 70’s Stones and The Faces – cleverly reflects the title and is a template for an album that showcases a very tight band exploring poppy refrains and funky melodies.
The funky ‘Wipe Those Tears Dry’ is an exemplar of his radio friendly style, while ‘Low Down’ features a notably warmer vocal on a hard driving song full of a layered sound that glues together jangling guitars, Bennett Holland’s B3 and harmony vocals to good effect. A lovely Beatles sounding fazed bridge finds it’s way back to an early career Elvis Costello style repeated hook on the fade.
Better still is the funky pop of ‘Heart Is On Fire’, as it moves into sudden uplifting piercing wah wah and insistent hook.
And it’s the combination of hooks and impressive guitar lines that linger. The refrains dominate the album to the point that some of the songs sound like a vehicle for the payoff. This is so on the mid-tempo funky groove of ‘Stay’, but the mellifluous production ensures an overall flow that carries the listener from the rocking opener to the closing West coast soul of ‘The Love’. The latter digs deep for a connection, but after all the previous sing-along choruses, it sounds a bit contrived.
No matter, the album is a step up for Laurence Jones in terms of his song discipline, while his vocals are much more resilient and versatile. His guitar solos are also an integral part of the song arrangements, with the notable exception perhaps of ‘I’m Waiting’.
Curiously chosen as the lead single, the latter racks up the tension with a staccato intro and an awkward tempo change leading to frenzied jammed out middle section full of breakneck wah wah guitar lines, all glued together by the propulsive drumming of Phil Wilson and pulsating bass work of Greg Smith.
‘Quite Like You’ is far more restrained. It features a different guitar tone on a funky intro with descending Stevie Wonder style harmony vocals leading to a repeated refrain with gospel bv’s. ‘Beautiful Place’ is a gentler piece built on some tic-toc percussion, Di Reed’s gospel bv’s and a Paul Simon feel. And though the bridge is weak, it’s countered by Laurence’s sinewy guitar line.
Sometimes the music subtly evokes a song’s thematic title, as on ‘Long Long Lonely Ride’. An acoustic guitar seamlessly slips into electric guitar work over delicate brushed strokes to evoke the idea of the open road.
On the down side (and there aren’t too many negatives), the lightweight lyrics of ‘Mistreated’ – a theme he repeats on the above song – takes a secondary place to the band’s tight interplay, on a cool blues filled by gnawing guitar lines and subtle pushes from rhythm section. The final pregnant pause and lightning outro illustrates just how tight the band is.
Jones’s version of ‘Day Tripper’ adds little to the original, but does fit the pop sensibilities of the album as a whole, while the Miami funk crossover influences sit neatly alongside the album’s salient commercial push.
This album doesn’t quite have the weight of songs to make it memorable, but it finds Laurence Jones honing his craft, embellishing his natural ability within a simpatico production to fill a wide screen with catchy pop tunes and lilting funk.
Sure it’s a departure and one that some of his die-hard fans will have to embrace or leave, because at this moment in time Laurence Jones is working at becoming a more well rounded artist and this album is a significant step along the way. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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