What does it sound like?:
When Bargey asked me if I wanted to review this album, of course I said ‘yes.’ They’re ‘my band’, after all. Little did I realise how tough a task it would be when I factored in that, since it was recorded, the singer and one of the principle writers, David Longdon, had died, following an accident at home.
Over the past ten years, David’s voice, and his songs, have been such a constant in my life, such a source of solace and joy, that I simply cannot imagine life without him. It was hard enough going back to old BBT music following his death, but new music? I had seen him perform those older songs with the band many times but, with the two later albums, released within six months of each other, and no prospect of ever seeing him command that stage and bring these songs to life?
It was almost too painful to bear.
So, the only way to approach this review is without that knowledge, without that black cloud that has hung over the band’s fans, since that fateful Saturday in November, when we got the news.
Okay. Here goes.
Welcome To The Planet is the band’s 14th album in their 28 year recording history. It is the 9th since David Longdon and drummer Nick D’Virgilio joined, in 2009, and helped to turn the fortunes of the band on its head. Plaudits and awards, both for their albums and their live shows, have pushed them into the mainstream album charts – and there is no doubt that this one will follow.
The album opens with a ray of sunshine, as close to a pop song as BBT may ever come, and it’s a joy. Made From Sunshine is a great way to open the album and it sets the tone for an album of optimism and fond reflection.
Nick D’Virgilio’s Connection Plan is an urgent, direct piece of music with an incredibly hooky chorus. A real grower, it demonstrates perfectly the power of the group of musicians which founder member, Greg Spawton, and David assembled following the departure of 3 key members after the last tour and the start of Lockdown. The new additions fit in seamlessly and are already adding their own spark and creativity, the essences of BBT music.
Lanterna is a proper prog outing and tells the history of a lighthouse in Genoa, Italy. As a way of introducing a new listener to the band, it would be a good example of their story-telling songs. It takes the listener on an exciting journey through history and, as with so many of Greg’s songs, puts you right in the centre of the story.
A Proper Jack Froster is Greg’s look back at the winters of his childhood via “a sledge with rusty rails”. It features the band’s signature sound of their brass section and also the voice of new member, Carly Bryant, who adds a different colour to the the band’s palette. Clare Lindley’s violin weaves in and out of the uptempo rhythm, adding a melancholy tone which contrasts beautifully with the fond memories of times gone by.
There are two instrumental tracks on the album, both of which show the musicians at their best. Nick D’Virgilio’s Bats In The Belfry features that brass section and would be a brilliant live track. Guitarist Rikard Sjoblom’s instrumental song is A Room With No Ceiling, a brilliant, jazzy track which showcases Greg’s terrific bass playing, as well as the band’s cohesive sound.
Oak and Stone is a beautiful piece which features David Longdon’s wonderful voice and could easily have closed the album. Except that BBT have been there, done that with previous albums, i.e: close with the quiet, tender song. It fits beautifully ahead of the album’s title track.
The progression that the band has made, over the past 12 years, is perfectly illustrated in the title track of the album.
Welcome To The Planet, written by Carly Bryant, and sung by her and David Longdon, is a really interesting song. It crashes in like the next act of Les Miserables and then……ELO? Supertramp? It sits easily on its influences, features lush backing vocals and a wild ending. I love it but I can see that it might divide opinion.
This album, the band’s second during Lockdown, is a triumph, and yet another in their run of outstanding albums of the past twelve years.
In fact, it is one of their best.
The writing has been spread around the band, which means that influences and directions come flying at you, but not at the cost of quality. It’s a cracker.
There, I did it.
What does it all *mean*?
Boy, that was hard. The thought that we will never get to see David sing these songs on stage is so sad but the joy he has given us BBT fans is worth all the pain.
Don’t be sad that it’s gone. Just be glad that it happened at all.
Goes well with…
All of their other albums.
28th January 2022
Might suit people who like…
Great, adventurous music played by great, adventurous musicians.