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Adam O'Farrill: "Right now in my life, I don't see music as the be-all and end-all." - (DownBeat November 2020).

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12,176 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1315 of them this year alone and, so far, 18 this month (Dec. 5).

Remembering ...

Roland Kirk died on Dec. 5, 1977.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Album Review: Living In Shadows – Living In Shadows

Zoë Gilby (vocals); Andy Champion (bass, cello, keyboards, drums, programming); Mark Williams (guitar); Paul Edis (piano) + Graeme Wilson (ten sax track 1, bari sax track 7); George Milburn (mandolin track 2); Emma Fisk (violin track 5)

These performers are well known and much loved by many of us here in the North East (and beyond) but not in the shape of this band, Living In Shadows. This fine album began life in 2016, when Andy and Zoë decided to expand their creativity by making music 'that is in our hearts without concerning ourselves with what pigeon hole it needs to fit into' said Zoë. The result is an album of 8 original songs, influenced by pop, rock, and progressive rock, and just a tinge of jazz.

The songs concern love, relationships, domestic abuse, daydreams, dictatorships, Newcastle in the 1970's, and even the migration of birds. The lyrics are interesting and intelligent and the musicianship is skilled, appropriate for the themes, just as we expect from these experienced players. The general idea is said to be transition and movement throughout life but that description gives no indication of just how enjoyable and thought-provoking the music is in reality.

The album opens with For The Day, about the birds, strong piano chords with an 'airy' feel and the sax playing a swooping effect, the voice doubling and echoing, singing such words as 'in the haze, watch it while away, beating wing of change'.

Running Feet is fast as in running, the most jazz-like track, with multi-tracked vocals, possibly a migrant running to safety.

I especially enjoyed Try To Take It Twice (maybe not quite the right word for such a serious subject), which is about domestic abuse, the vocals are almost bitter, mocking and chant-like 'you left the light on, falling over,' with the music sounding like running feet, especially the agitated mandolin.

Sending Electricity is a quite sensuous song about communicating when separated, which is sung in a more intimate voice than on the other tracks.

Believe concerns daydreams and features Emma Fisk on violin and the voice is double tracked.

The Tunnel is the most fascinating of the songs. Zoë has chatted about this at gigs, relating how she had to perform songs in a railway tunnel during a jazz festival in Romania. This sounds positively dangerous to me, but Zoë has managed to turn it into a song about a long-forgotten train on the railways of the past.  The lyrics are full of atmosphere 'drip-dropping dampness cries, holding the past it lasts for a lifetime, brakes screeching, I'm alive'.

Postcards concerns dictatorship, based on a book, Alone In Berlin by Hans Fallada. The voice is ironic, 'a poisoned pen letter, to make you feel better?' and the bass and baritone sax play fast and sound menacing.

Smoke & Mirrors This final track is the longest at nearly 10 minutes and it was commissioned by Jazz North East to commemorate their 50th birthday in 2016. It was inspired by the film Get Carter and concerns  some aspects of life in 1970's Newcastle, mainly to do with corrupt property deals, naming no names, and the destruction of buildings of historical value. The comprehensive lyrics are printed on the CD cover, and are well worth reading, such lines as 'demolish ruin castles, replaced with towers of plastic' The music is appropriate, a jazzy piano, drums and bass sequence, a sad-sounding guitar, a very angry voice, ending with the final assertion 'what you see is what you're getting'.

All tracks were written and arranged by Zoë Gilby and Andy Champion, except track 3 by Zoë, Andy and Mark Williams and track 8 by Zoë, Andy and Roy Budd

The tracks For The Day and Sending Electricity have already been issued as singles. These have been played on BBC Radio Newcastle and on media outlets in the USA. The album is available from Dec. 4 as a digital download, a CD, and as a vinyl (limited edition) copy. See www.livinginshadows.com

Ann Alex

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