Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Luke Morley - Songs From The Blue Room

If you go down to the woods today, and start playing Luke Morley’s Songs From The Blue Room in the expectation of some Thunderous hard rock befitting the lead guitarist from Britain’s premier rock combo of recent times, then you’re sure of a big surprise.  To say that Blue Room is a different kettled of potatoes is putting it mildly.  I mean, there are moments here that sound like . . . Mary Hopkin?
For those who don’t know, Hopkin was a Welsh folk-pop chanteuse of the 60s and early 70s, who came third in the 1970 Eurovision, married Bowie producer Tony Visconti, and was one of the first signings to Apple Records.  More to the point though, her biggest hit was ‘Those Were
Luke Morley gets down to some songwriting in, er, a brown room
Pic by Jason Joyce
The Days’, an English language rewrite of an old Russian song – and Luke Morley’s ‘Nobody Cares’ veers towards similar Eastern European-leaning musical terrain.  Yes, really.  Morley delivers a meditative vocal set to a romantic melody, over lilting guitar strummings and a low-key rhythm section, sweetened by the arrival of mandolin and crystallising in a swaying, gypsy-like “La la la” chorus and similarly bohemian-styled guitar break.
Okay, so it’s just one track, but there are two other points worth drawing from this little diversion.‘Those Were The Days’ was a hit in 1968, and was produced by a certain Paul McCartney. These are the real keys to Songs From The Blue Room, which is steeped in melodic pop sounds from Morley’s childhood in the late 60s and early 70s - and particularly The Beatles and their ilk.
Opening track ‘I Wanna See The Light’, for example, features a descending guitar line that owes a few quid to ‘Here Comes The Sun’.  It evolves though, into something more akin to Del Amitri (which is, I hope we can all agree, a good thing), with a sunny feel and a catchy, driving chorus that’s given a lift by backing vocals from Julie Maguire and Carly Greene.  And there’s a very latter-day Fab Four feel to the following ‘Killed By Cobain’, especially in the gossipy backing vocals of the bridge, as Morley twinklingly recalls the revolution of grunge, and how it put paid to Thunder’s ambitions in America.
There are more echoes of Del Amitri with ‘Watch The Sun Going Down’ – though Del Amitri in cheerful mode, as Morley never approaches the withering lyrical darkness Justin Currie often musters – combining acoustic chording and a brief harmonica break that could have been sampled from ‘Love Me Do’.  And there’s tootling harp on ‘Lying To Myself’ too, to go with a clip-clopping rhythm, jangly acoustic guitar and mandolin, and Hollies-like harmonies.
Morley goes down some different avenues with ‘Errol Flynn’ and ‘Damage’.  The former is a simple country-ish tune with an elegiac tone as it contemplates the fading away of heroes.  Meanwhile, ‘Damage’ has a whimsical oompah feel, with Morley’s right hand plonking away at just one or two piano chords, and then a very Brian May-like guitar solo arrives on the scene, together with some lush, offbeat backing vocals. Think ‘Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy’ but, y’know – less Mercurial.  Well, a bit anyway.
The most muscular thing here is ‘I’m The One You Want’, with its snappy drums, jabbing electric guitar chords, and twangy bass.  It bumps along merrily on a summery tune, colliding with a squibbly (technical term there) little funk-tinged bridge that’s reprised at the end, with some scrabbling guitar work in between.  ‘Don’t Be Long’ then closes things out in Beatles-ballad fashion, led by piano and voice and with strings and woozy slide guitar adding a dreamy feel. 
Songs From The Blue Room isn’t an especially impactful album, really.  But Luke Morley being the pro that he is, both as a songwriter and a musician, it’s still a neat, enjoyable diversion - and suggests that if he's ever in need of a new gig, he could usefully get together with, say, Macca, Ringo and Jeff Lynne.  Nobody's ever done anything like that before.
Songs From The Blue Room is released by Conquest Music on 23 June, and can be ordered here.

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