Saturday, June 18, 2022

Kat's Korner: George Ezra and Rod Stewart prove the British are still invading

KatGeorge Ezra has a new album.  What is it about British male singers?  They usually seem to have much more gravitas than American male singers.  To this day, I listen to George Michael, Robbie Williams and Rod Stewart, for example and, more recently,  I've added George Ezra and Harry Styles.

Don't judge a book by its cover, right?  Well I'm a photographer offline.  So a cover matters a great deal.  And the biggest obstacle to my listening to GOLD RUSH KID was the cover.

I have no idea what anyone was thinking.  The inside shot of the cover (vinyl album) isn't really that much better.  The landscape in front of Geroge looks fine and probably that's the best yellow they could use to write "Gold Rush Kid" across the back of his denim jacket but that jacket?

I checked with British community members to make sure this wasn't a culture difference between the US and the UK but they assured me that, no, they thought a faded blue would have been better as well.  It's just too bright and, for George, honestly too dark.

He's a big guy.  I don't mean he's stocky or fat.  I mean he's obviously over six foot tall.  Maybe the dark blue's supposed to say he's an emerging mountain?  Or maybe it's supposed to say he's new to the world?  I have no idea.

But if there's an artistic statement in that cover, I still would have argued that it made a very poor commercial statement because that jacket's a turn off.  It's like his mom just took him to some local superstore and he's all excited, taking the tags off, to wear it to school the next day -- all the kids there are going to think it needed a few washings as well.

A lighter color, a faded blue, would have warmed him up.  

In that way, he's like another famous British male singer: Elton John.  Elton took awhile to decide on a look.  When he finally hit it, he expanded on it and -- this being the extreme seventies -- expanded on it a lot more.

But the thing is someone's been helping George with his official look.  Since 2013's "Budapest," there's been a steady growth.  Doubt it, just compare his look there with his look on the video for this album's "Green Green Grass"

It's not been a move to may him a style icon, it's been a move to make him look less rigid.  I'm sure every guy under five-feet-six has no sympathy for it, but tall guys have their own issues too.  

And George's dealing with issues on this album including his own o.c. disorder on "I Went Hunting" and if I just blurred or muted your enjoyment of that song, well, live in my world.

"I Went Hunting" is a great song.  And it could be about many things including something we yearn for and miss (including a lost love or a even a treasured object like a favorite album) and I was listening to it and marveling over the lyrics and how they reminded me of a poem Anne Sexton might write when the internet dee jay tells me George wrote this song about Pure O which, it turns out, is not a drug like X, though that's where my mind immediately went.  No, Pure O is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  

And that might have inspired the song or be word-for-word what it's about but I like to get there on my own and it also meant a lot more to me when I was pondering what he was saying.  

The quick fix.  That's what the dee jay gave and that's what happens to often these days with music.  We don't get to absorb it or find out what it means to me (take care of TCB?), we just get a meaning thrust off on us.  That was the fear when music videos first began emerging.  That a song a writer hoped would move people and register with them would instead be reduced to, for example, Billy Idol humping the stage in "To Be A Lover" -- a song I love, by the way, and a video I do as well.''

"To Be A Lover" features some great piano work as does "Anyone For You (Tiger Lily)," Joel Pott on the latter. 

The song seems to be about many things including how eager/desperate we can get in a relationship -- at the beginning and throughout.

And it's got this surprising depth.  I don't mean that as an insult, if you know his work, you know George is a gifted songwriter.  But the looks . . . 

He's the jock who has everything and only gets humanized when the arty girl at school takes an interest in him.  

I guess that's why the cover bothers me so much.  The only way he's not getting made fun of for wearing that jacket to school is that he's the jock no one would dare crack on.  

And that visual stereotype is nothing like the artists who emerges in his songs.

"Gold Rush Kid" is a fun song that drifts along quickly.  The title track is only two minutes and forty-three seconds.  And that's one great about the vinyl boom.  Unless you're going to make it a two disc set, a lot of pretension and greed is going to be gone. Most songs are not worthy of going over four minutes in length.  However, ego and greed by the CD age had given us tons of songs over four minutes because, you hit that mark, and after it, you start making higher royalties.  So the track drifts along quickly in terms of the length of the recording but it also drifts along quickly on a bouncy beat.  You get several meanings after many listening (the most obvious meaning, of course, is George and his relationship with the audience).  

The playing.  George has always had great music and strong arrangements but this is even more true today.  I love, for example, "Hold My Girl" and, honestly, when we were on the road speaking all the time (now it's Zooms or Teams for the most part), that was a song I'd usually listen to before I'd go to bed in some strange hotel room.  But listening to "Fell In Love At The End Of The World," I really would love to hear George and the band lay down a new version of "Hold My Girl."

You can't talk George without talking the voice.  He's not a tenor.  He's  really a baritone but he can hit a lot of notes even lower than that.  And his voice is unique and identifiable.  

"I Went Hunting."  See if you can forget what we discussed above and just enjoy the beauty of his voice and whatever word pictures the song paints for you.

GOLD RUSH KID is one of the best of the year and it will make my top ten, I'm sure.  I'll just spend the rest of the year wondering where it will fall on my best of 2022.

Rod Stewart.

"One More Time" opens the 12 track THE TEARS OF HERCULES.  This album came out in November.  I didn't know about it until Saturday when I was talking to Betty, Mike, Elaine, Ava and C.I. about my thoughts on George's album.  I noted that I really loved British male singers. And we started listing some.  Then, at the end, I noted, "And, of course, there's always Rod." Which prompted C.I. to ask me what I thought of THE TEARS OF HERCULES.


She walked over to the shelves she keeps her vinyl on, grabbed it, put it on the turntable.

And I have no idea what else happened.  

They may have continued talking or they might have listened in silence along with me.

I was transported.  Caught up in the landscape that Rod was creating.  

I've always loved Rod's singing and he writes some really great songs.  And there are albums of his that I love.  But, and I recently lost a family member, I really connected with the world he shares in this album.  We go on living, we try to find passion, and we remember our loves ones that have passed away.  Maybe it makes us a little more aware of how short life is.  And how precious. Maybe we just think it does. 

But this is a wonderful album.  

I looked at some reviews and apparently I'm the only one that feels that way.  Some people are really not liking the album.  

Sail away, sail away

I'm going down to Mexico to live out all my days.

Maybe you have to be in a certain place to get the uplift of that in "All My Days."  But I love it.

And if you're reading this when it goes up, you can get this album on vinyl at AMAZON right now for $8.73.  You can't beat that price.  I have no idea how long this sale price (65% reduction) will last but I went to AMAZON as soon as the second side finished.  Pulled out the phone determined to buy it immediately upon hearing C.I.'s copy -- and willing to pay $30 or so bucks.  $8.73?  Suddenly, I was back at Sam Goodys and thrilled to find Bon Jovi's new album SLIPPERY WHEN WET and Ashford &  Simpson's REAL LOVE both on sale for $8.99.  I grabbed them both that day.  Hint, hint, the price of vinyl today needs to come down.