penny black music
Edinburgh based Steve Adey has accomplished three things on 'All Things Real', his debut album, which would seem impossible on paper. For the first he has, as so many artists are fond of doing these days, opened his album with a short instrumental. Without exception this has me hitting the next button on the CD player. But with ‘Death To All Things Real’, in an all too short one minute 35 seconds, Adey paints a picture with this piano-led soundscape which sets out his stall nicely for the following nine songs. The bells add an eeriness which returns again and again through these songs. It’s a fitting piece to open the album with.
Then there’s the two covers Adey has chosen for the album.
But the cover of Dylan’s ‘Shelter From The Storm’ from Blood On The Tracks had me reaching for the replay button after the first listen. Adey has slowed the song down and it is led by piano rather than guitar. Adey has completely rearranged the song and his deep, rich vocals come as a shock after so many years of hearing Dylan’s version but they add a soulfulness to the song which wasn’t there before. Without a doubt Adey’s best vocal performance on the entire album, the song builds slowly as more instruments are added along the way. The cliché of "making the song ones own" was never more true. It’s an absolutely stunning take and worth the price of the CD alone. Eight minutes of perfection.
The only other song Adey didn’t write on this collection is ‘Evening Of The Day’ which was composed by Douglas MacDonald who plays guitar throughout the album. It’s a gem of a song, melodic, with a gorgeous guitar line that is impossible to forget. It shows a mellower side to Adey and adds a little texture to the album.
So it’s obvious that Adey can take songs and mould them into his own creation but do his seven songs hold up? For the most part, yes they do. While Adey’s own compositions never quite reach the heights of say, ‘Shelter From The Storm’ it should be remembered that this is his debut album and if he has the talent to take on a Dylan song like that and turn it on its head the time will come when his own writing will match such classics.
If we take ‘The Lost Boat Song’ for instance, Adey has the talent to realise that female vocals work well with his voice, their lightness to his darkness. They add colour to what otherwise could be a really bleak album. On this particular song the female vocals are handled by Helena MacGilp and Adey’s harmonium again adds to the atmosphere. And that’s just one of the originals which deserve special mention; the funereal-paced ‘Find The Way’ is another atmospheric piece, a struggling relationship song, heartbreaking in its structure, and again with those female voices adding so much to the overall sound, this time both Noordennen and MacGilp singing like lost angels.
I came to this album with no expectations. Steve Adey was a new name
to me and I knew nothing about him or his music. But the album has hardly
been out of the player since I received it, and it’s not just down
to that outstanding Dylan cover. Adey’s own songs stand up extremely
well and I eagerly look forward to hearing more from this talented artist.
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