When in 1974 singer songwriter John Howard released his debut album Kid in a Big World to those in the know and the few that bought it the smart money would have been on an artist that would rival the likes of Elton John, such was the width and breath of the song writing, all twists and turns and a lyrical dexterity that would sit comfortably alongside other fine tunesmiths like Todd Rundgren and David Bowie, in fact on the sleeve of Kid there is a little of the glam androgyny of the time that fits in with the period.
Unfortunately as is the case with many classic albums it sunk without trace until 20 years later when it was picked up by the influential music magazine Mojo as a lost masterpiece and gained the much underrated Mr. Howard some much deserved kudos and enabled him the opportunity to release some new material of which Same Bed, Different Dreams is his latest release, the songs are immediate, clear and concise, Piano driven every song tells a story, some of lost loves and of other peoples lives that have a cinematic feel. Fans of the American songwriter Ben Folds should investigate as there is a common link to both artists in the way they tell a story to a grand musical accompaniment.
Opening track “My Girl” by the Temptations is a perfect case in point in which Howard opens up a world in which the likes of Lennon, Garland and Shirley Temple are all given a name check into someone else’s life.
Same Bed is in many parts a wiser grandparent to Kid in a big World, the themes are updated and seen through the eyes of a soul who has seen the years unwind through various twists and turns. The sublime Success is beautifully sung with a subtle piano accompaniment that encapsulates the poignant lyrics and makes them jump out of the speakers into the listener’s ears.
The same could be said of Over the moon which has an immediate and tuneful feel to it, within a few plays it all starts to make sense and beggars the question why isn’t all pop music this intelligent. Sacred Heart has an autobiographical feel to it, a yearning nod to the past, a catholic guilt complex? The listener must take what he or she wants from it.
On this very fine album there are 16 tracks that have their own agenda, they are sung from a man who has had a life and wants you to share in that world, are you ready for the challenge?
Reviewed by Tony Bartolo |