"Chasing Rainbows" - The new album by Ray Wilson reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

For someone with a peripatetic schedule such as Ray’s I wonder where he found the time to write and record his latest album but here it is. The first thing that one notices about this album on first listening is how relaxed Ray sounds on it. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to say that this is a “happy” album, as there is the usual mix of lyrical observation and social commentary which always marks Ray’s work out as a cut (pun intended) above average but the overall feel of this one is definitely more optimistic than previous efforts, to my ears at least.

The album opens with Take It Slow, perhaps advice that Ray should take with regard to his constant touring but nonetheless, this one reminds me of Crowded House for some reason. More laid back than before, Ray’s vocal still has the power to send shivers up your spine and this is an excellent opener.

Easier That Way had already made its appearance in Ray’s shows long before the album was released in the grand old tradition of road testing new material. This one is a much more emotional song. Not surprising really when you realise that its subject matter is everyone’s current pet hate: bankers! Don’t be fooled by the rather jaunty almost Beatlesque rhythm that runs throughout this one, the lyrics are as sharp as a knife!

Follow The Lie is another reflective number, with an infectiously catchy chorus and slightly maudlin lyrics and a marvellously emotional sax solo from Marcin Kajper certainly adds to the emotional impact of the song. Strange that sad songs always seem to resonate much more with people than happy ones but there you go! Shouting In My Sleep dwells on that popular topic for songwriters; a relationship gone wrong, and the torment that the affected parties can feel as the blame game kicks in.

Wait For Better Days is without doubt one of the most brilliantly observed lyrics I have ever heard from Ray. A bittersweet mixture of hope and regret accompanied by a superb instrumental accompaniment which at times reminds me of both The Verve and Supertramp but at the same time is uniquely Ray Wilson. The downbeat nature of the album continues with She Don’t Feel Loved and Rhianne both of which focus their attentions on life and love and loss, the former is a piano driven number where the optimistic nature of the music forms a perfect counterfoil to the pessimism of the lyrics while the latter is almost jazzy in its delivery but the subject matter is just as poignant.

She’s A Queen is another examination of a relationship although whether this one has gone wrong or right is left open, perhaps even an open letter to someone who doesn’t know the effect they have on somebody else? Whatever Happened is a brilliant reflection on the thoughts we must all have about people who have occupied a part of our lives for good or bad. A much more upbeat and optimistic number, with an almost Country & Western feel to it which is surprising as I have always found C & W to be almost unremittingly miserable! Rays musical version of Friends Reunited perhaps?

I See It All is a marvellous examination of differences of faith, opinion. Dramatic and yet quite catchy there’s an underlying tension here which belies the quite upbeat music - appearance can be deceptive, can’t they? The Life Of Someone is another brilliant piece of social commentary from Ray who is at his acerbic best here and he asks the fundamental question : who are we to judge anyone else’s life choices? Life doesn’t deal us the same hand and for every winner there are many more losers in life’s tapestry and they are brilliantly brought to life here.

The album concludes with No Dreams Are Made of This another pungent lyric accompanied by a suitably reflective musical accompaniment which brings things to a suitably thoughtful close.

Ray doesn’t really do “happy” as this album so patently reveals, and there are elements of autobiography running through this album I am sure. The end result though is a thought provoking collection of well written and executed songs, augmented by the fine ensemble of players which bring them to life. As a writer, Ray has never sounded more confident and this is an album that any fan of well crafted music should have in their collections - well done that man!

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Ray Wilson - Chasing Rainbows - Jaggy Polski RAY02