Website [Release date 13.07.20]
Toby Jepson is a national treasure and one of the finest musicians, songwriters and producers in the country. From his time fronting Little Angels, his successful solo career, stints with Fastway, Gun and Dio Disciples through to the current band, Wayward Sons, his great talent has always shone through.
This new release is a very welcome 25th anniversary reissue of his first post L.A. album and it is not only an outstanding album but also incredibly prescient, its themes echoing as strongly today as they did then.
Opener ‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’ really hits the ground running, its great modern rock thrust carrying the Orwellian lyrics along in a striking and urgent manner. Musically, Jepson is never content to sit still and whilst the album most definitely is stamped throughout firmly with his identity, there is a breadth of styles that shows his reach and mastery of his craft.
It could never be said that he’s oblique in his meaning too as very few artists wear their heart on their sleeves as obviously or well, the socially aware and passionate lyrics clear throughout. There’s touches of Pearl Jam and Nirvana grunge in the heartbreaking ‘Better Off Without Me’ and ‘Slipping Through Your Fingers’ hits just as hard emotionally and the guitar work is ferocious in its intense commitment.
There is a more relaxed, but equally sharply focused, pace to ‘Haven’t Got Your Strength’ and ‘The Wind Blows Hard’ is a heartfelt rocker that features a phenomenal solo as it fades out. As befits an artist of Jepson’s stature, gems are scattered throughout the album and you get the feeling that history will surely mark him out to be one of the great songwriters and lyricists of his generation.
This isn’t pure hyperbole, but a reflection of his work and quality runs through it from those early fiery days when Little Angels emerged out of Scarborough as five young guys determined to take on the world through to the present with Wayward Sons.
Emotionally speaking, this release was recorded at a time of great transition and uncertainty, the band he’d fronted having played their last show at the Royal Albert Hall and having to deal with constantly shifting sands in his life outside of music as anchors were slipping in all directions.
With all this going on ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ seemed to give both an outlet for all this and a focus on something he knew, echoing works like ‘Let It Be’, ‘Rumours’ and ‘The Visitors’ where The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and ABBA turned these elements into gold.
‘All Heal In Time’ is a shuffling acoustic delight and ‘I Won’t Be With You’ starts off with the sweeping grandeur of a James Bond theme before Bon Jovi style hooks with dirt under their fingernails take over. Similarly, ‘Save Me From Myself’ is all rolling and brave landscape-filling widescreen commercial rock that speaks about the break-up of his former band that is swiftly followed by the acoustic kaleidoscope that is ‘Out of Site and Out of Mind’.
There is another total change of pace in the Black Grape style funky Britpop wig out of ‘Harder all the Time’ and after the twisting ‘Open Your Mind’, the groove returns with a more 70’s vibe in ‘Get Your Feet On’.
The musical and emotional rollercoaster ends on the folk-meets-Springsteen-with-added-guitar ‘Spiritually Bankrupt’, a telling and intelligent commentary on life, beautifully told. A vital addition to the collection of not just fans of Jepson, but to anyone who loves passionate, supremely crafted music ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ is just as remarkable now as when it was released a quarter of a century ago. *****
Review by Paul Monkhouse
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