"The First Cut" - Review of Cut's debut album, Millionairhead by Alan Hewitt.
So, now that the furore attending Ray's filling of Phil Collins' shoes in Genesis has died down, and the doubters have been well and truly silenced; here comes Ray's first solo outing with his own band, Cut. Having seen his earlier bands, Guaranteed Pure and Stiltskin, what has Ray's experience with Genesis brought to his own style of music? Well, to be honest, he hasn't changed his style at all, which I am relieved about. There is a harder edge to the sound on this album, and any doubts as to his rock capabilities will soon be assuaged on hearing this record.
Opening with the haunting plainsong of "Jigsaw", where a deceptive acoustic accompaniment lulls you into a false sense of security before the hard rock kicks in and takes over; this is a real Rock'n'Roll love song and a great opener. "Sarah" follows and is another fast-paced rocker, which is, to my ears at least, a little more in the mould of Ray's former band mates, Stiltskin. This song is blessed with an infectious guitar refrain and some really solid powerhouse drumming by Ray's cohort from Genesis, Nir Zidkyahu. "Another Day" is the album's debut single and the guitar intro is very reminiscent of both The Corrs and fellow Scottish band Del Amitri. This establishes the band's credentials as both a roc band as well as having an eye (and ear) to the pop sensibilities of some of their prospective audience and the single should do well.
"Hey, Hey" is yet another cheerful(?) song coupling family regret and loss in the lyrics with a bitter-sweet musical accompaniment. The subject matter of the song is very downbeat and yet I fancy this as a prospective follow-up single which maybe shows how perverse I am, who knows? "Millionairhead", the album's title track follows, and is another hard rocker; full of urban angst and anger - a tale of money and the waste having too much of it can cause, especially in the hands of someone ill-equipped to deal with it: a "million airhead". "Shoot The Moon" is a deliciously slow-paced ballad where the combined sounds of all the band prove that there is more to this band than hard rock. Ray's melancholy vocal on this one is excellent and it also helps that the song shares its title with one of my favourite albums of the 1980's by Judie Tzuke!
"Young Ones" at first I thought may have been here for some comic relief, given the title, but no: another tale of an angry young man and an elegy for those left behind as life's casualties. "No Place For A Loser" is a song with a surprisingly up beat melody given the title and providing a nice contrast between the music and the lyrics once again displaying the band's own line in self deprecating irony.
"Space Oddity". Yes, this IS a cover of David Bowie's '60's classic, and perhaps a strange choice of song for a cover but then again, maybe it is the rather doomy subject matter of the song itself, although really it is down to Bowie being Ray's earliest musical influence. That aside, it certainly sounds as if the band had a great time spanking the plank on this one! "I Hear You Calling" opens with a jangly guitar refrain which tome echoes so many British bands of the last few years. However, the brashness of the playing, coupled with the haziness (deliberate or otherwise) of Ray's vocals leads me to think that this has the potential as another single.
"Gypsy" is another melodic ballad with a slight jazz tinged guitar part which leads into a full-blooded rock chorus and a delightfully understated keyboard part and even more hard rockin' percussion. I envisage this one as part of a film soundtrack somewhere. "Ghost" is the album's final track, and one of the few where the keyboards take the lead, and the combination of acoustic and electronic keyboard sounds emphasises the sadness of the lyrics, whilst the guitar playing and percussion are almost like the opposite sides of an argument - a dramatic ending to a dark and powerful debut album.
So there you have it; Ray will have no problems fronting this band as all the musicians are evidently very accomplished and despite the overall gloomy subject matter of the songs, I can't help feeling that there was an awful lot of time spent laughing during the creation of this album, and no doubt the forthcoming tour by the band will be a deserved success - hopefully the readership of TWR will give the band their loyal support, and we wish them every success with the album and the tour.