“You have to look back to be able to look forward. ” - Ray Wilson’s latest album: Makes Me Think of Home reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Ray Wilson has been a very busy boy over the last few months. Not only constantly touring in Europe but also somehow finding time to release not one but two albums this year. The first of these; Song For A Friend proved to be very much Ray’s coming of age as a song writer and it gained deserved plaudits from critics and fans alike. Now he is back with a second offering: Makes Me Think Of Home which picks up the threads where its predecessor left off.
With the current situation in the UK post Brexit, it is perhaps appropriate that the album opens with They Should Never Have Sent You Roses, a poignant look at a love affair between a Scottish boy and an English girl, one which has gone sour. A metaphor for the current state of affairs between England/Scotland and the UK/Europe perhaps but also a look at class and its effects on relationships. A thought provoking and intriguing opener with just a hint of U2 in the guitar riff and some superb harmony vocals to boot.
The album’s next track: The Next Life could well be an anthem for environmentalists or politicians, as it is a wonderful evocation of changing your lifestyle before it is too late, Sleepless nights caused by illness or a pricking conscience? Either way, this one makes you think and ray manages to get a serious message across here without coming across in the slightest bit preacher-y.
Tennessee Mountains and Worship The Sun are effectively the two sides of the same coin - winter/summer Isolation can be a good or a bad thing depending on what you are isolated from I guess. Our own personal searches will mean that the message in these songs is different for each and every one of us as we find our own mountains to climb.
Makes Me Think of Home, the album’s title track is another in the long line of wistful, what -if songs written by those exiled from their homeland for whatever reason. Ray made his choice to leave Scotland for a better life in Poland, in this case the grass has proven to be definitely greener but as the saying goes… there’s no place like home.
Amen To That, is an acerbic dissection of what drives a city dweller to finally leave the rat race and get out into the country for the sake of his sanity and his soul. The lyrics to this one are some of the hardest hitting and most heartfelt that I think Ray has ever delivered and ones which most of us in this increasingly frenetic world will relate to - amen to that indeed!
Another method of escape from the daily grind is brilliantly evoked in Anyone Out There. Many of life’s victims find escape through drugs and alcohol although the escape is merely swapping one prison for an even more straitened one.
From one man’s isolated mental prison to the equally tortured world of someone obsessed with Don’t Wait For Me… a stalker’s worst nightmare brought brilliantly to life.
From the depths of despair to the wonder of the simplest of things seen through a child’s eyes next in Calvin And Hobbes. Sad thing is, as we get older, we lose our sense of adventure and imagination, oh to have them back again!
The album is rounded out by the optimism of The Spirit. We all have our dream of riding off into the sunset and leaving the rat race behind. Some of us achieve it for real, others do so in their minds and for those of us who don’t this song gives us an inkling of what we may be missing.
If Rays’ last album was a coming of age, then this one is a reaffirmation if one was needed, that here we have one of the best song writers to emerge from the UK in the last twenty years. Makes Me Think Of Home is the product of a superb artist, crafted to the highest level, never overstated or overplayed, simply perfect.