Musicians' Corner 2 - The Julie July Band - review by Alan Hewitt.
The Julie July Band have been going for several years now. Renowned in the first instance for their interpretation of the Sandy Denny songbook but more recently branching out on their own with a brand of what has been termed "Progressive Folk". And here we are with their latest album - Wonderland. Let's see if that tag fits, eh?
Standing On The Edge Of The World gets the album off and the first thing I noticed was the resemblance of the guitar riff to a Beatles/Lennon song (One Of The Beautiful People I think it is called). That aside however, the sing owes nothing to The Beatles or anyone else for that matter other than the people who created it with some superb guitar work from Steve Rezillo and a marvellous vocal from Julie herself which sets the stall out for the rest of the album.
Gold Dust is a marvellous evocation of lost love, a lost family and the hope that what was lost may return. Superbly performed, a delicious melody on piano and harmony vocals to die for! This one would do well as a single.
Til The Sun Goes Down - a tale of small town folk with bit but unfulfilled ambitions. We all live a life full of what it's and we have those musings expressed in song - the shadow of missed opportunities is a long one but we all have the chance to take that "path to the stars in the sky" and build a better life.
More Than This and it's deceptive acoustic melody line hides an acerbic tale of mistaking a casual relationship for something more significant. The beauty of this is the marriage (pun intended) of some excellent acoustic guitar work from Caley Groves and Julie's beautifully delivered vocal.
The album's title track takes things up a notch musically with a rockier feel and a wonderful evocation of the reality of today's world - especially our obsession with media and reality TV and I find the line "This Shangri-la's unseen, we stop to wipe the screen" particularly powerful.
Follow brilliantly evokes the feeling of relief we all must feel as we gradually emerge from the straightjacket of Lockdown. We can only hope that the sentiments of the song are those which we find for ourselves as we strive to find out own normality again.
Labyrinth brilliantly sums up life. We struggle to make head or tail of the way life's twists and turns have the nack of pulling the rug out from under us when we feel secure. The Labyrinth of life is one of constant change and it is described here to perfection in words and music.
Seven Cities Of Gold steps out with a jaunty Dire Straits-ish swagger just like the Conquistadors of old but look again, this is another brilliantly contrived metaphor for today's world. Is the "Ancient Citadel" an analogy for Westminster and the "Desperados" who run from there?
Secret Deep is a searing indictment of today's material society and the shallowness of it all and once again there are some particularly telling lyrics here…
"The bubble in the South sea has exploded/And the bargain gin has now been banned".
The theme of an illusory life is maintained in the album's next track: Smoke & Mirrors which is without doubt the album's strongest and most acerbic track..A damning indictment of the current situation the world (and the UK in particular) finds itself in. I love the words "A trip to the house of hocus-pocus" which is probably the best description of Westminster I have ever heard!
Autumn Memories once again takes its inspiration from life and its twists and turns and the feeling that no matter what we do, our journey through it is pre- ordained and that sense of futility we all feel from time to time.
The Last Farewell is perhaps the only track on this album which can be said to owe its roots to the "Folk" tradition. A tale of seafarers and the risks they take and the longing for a safe homecoming at journey's end - a homecoming some never achieve.
Here we have an album of impeccably crafted and performed songs with plenty to say. Delivered by a band of consummate musicians. Each and every track is a delight, nothing is overplayed or overstated. Every performance is balanced and given in a totally enjoyable manner. Folk Prog? Not to these ears. The Julie July Band have ploughed their own musical furrow and I love it!