Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Laurence Jones - The Truth

If Take That had envisioned themselves as a blues rock band, this is what they might have sounded like.
Okay, take a deep breath. I’m not saying this to slag Laurence Jones off. I might find the whole TT schtick as unappealing as any other blues/rock fan, but I’d still argue Gary Barlow and chums have shown a handy way with a pop melody down the years. And I’d submit that what we have here, on Laurence Jones’ first outing with Gregory Elias as producer and label boss, is something that similarly majors on catchy choruses, sophisticated harmonies, and glossy production.  Jones may have come up with some similar basic material in the past – ‘Don’t Look Back’ on What’s It Gonna Be, for example – but this is a whole different animal.
Laurence Jones - smooth operator
Pic by Rob Blackham
Vocal coaching for Jones has been a declared component in the development of The Truth, and his singing here is smoother and more controlled than on previous albums. Which fits with a vibe in which Bennett Holland’s keys are often as much to the fore as Jones’s guitar – in fact more so now and then.  And you’ll wait a long time to hear drummer Phil Wilson give a cymbal a resounding crash across the ten songs here.
‘What Would You Do’ sets the tone with a tense guitar riff, an earworm of a chorus, lots of cleverly arranged backing vocals, and a restrained, tasteful guitar solo, all conveyed by means of a crystal clear sound. But several songs, such as ‘Hold Me Close’, the four-on-the-floor ‘Keep Me Up At Night’, and ‘Take Me’ rest more heavily on warm piano from Holland, and drum rhythms from Wilson so rock solid in their constancy that they could be programmed.
Things are more up tempo and urgent on ‘Don’t You Let Me Go’, with its stop- start guitar and keyboard chords, and ‘Give Me Your Time’, in which Jones contributes a nice solo that sits unnecessarily low in the mix. ‘Gone Away’ is perhaps as gritty as it gets, built on wah-wah guitar and some edgier vocals from Jones in the verses, with a brief but sparky guitar solo and some lush organ to complement the very Take That chorus.
Blues fans may well incline most towards the two tracks that go for an Aynsley Lister-ish vibe, namely the title cut and the closing ‘Never Good Enough’ with its ooh-oohing backing vocals and laid back, ticking guitar. With none of the ten tracks on the album reaching four minutes in length I reckon ‘The Truth’, a slowie with a bluesy guitar intro, should have been an opportunity for Jones to stretch out and bring some more guitar to the party.
What Jones and his new mentor Elias have given us on The Truth is very well done, but it does feel a bit constricted in style. A couple of more spontaneous bursts of rough and tumble, in the manner of an earlier song like ‘Stop Moving The House’, would have provided some leavening variety.
After four previous albums showing varying degrees of maturity, and god knows how many shows across Europe as a veritable road warrior, Laurence Jones is certainly entitled to try a new direction.  The blues-pop of The Truth does that stylishly, if within a very contained framework. It’ll be interesting to see how he makes this stuff work in a live setting.

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