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Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare

Jonathan Wilson has been very industrious of late not least producing tracks on the epic new album by Roy Harper Man & Myth . He must be an expert on time management since this new album Fanfare is a long 13 track affair like his last album 2011’s Gentle Spirit . That was a very personal outing with a Laurel Canyon vibe that produced a mix of sheer brilliance but also some songs which slipped badly into seventies pastiche. Fanfare addresses these issues and is the fully-fledged complete album that Wilson has been threatening to make standing easily as one of the best of 2013.

The songs are stronger, the production is tighter plus the musical feast on offer far more tasty and lavish. It starts with the superb seven minute title track. This is classic songwriting, echoing the vibe contained on Dennis Wilson’s masterpiece ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’. It is a multi layered mini epic with Wilson hushed vocals playing out over soft piano, dramatic orchestration and even some free form jazz. Next up ‘Dear Friend’ shows that Wilson has profitably studied Pink Floyd with the reverb laden guitar solo half way through partly hewn from Mount Gilmour . The great factor about Wilson however is while he does not disguise his influences he does not become overwhelmed by them. Guesting on the album are California luminaries like Jackson Browne , David Crosby and Graham Nash and it would be easy to imagining Crosby in his prime covering the complex acoustics of ‘Her hair is growing long’. Other songs like ‘Future Vision’ echo John Lennon and the straightforward ‘Love to Love’ recalls the Eagles .

Standouts are many. The lovely alt country of ‘Moses Pain’ is top notch while the superb acoustic strum of ‘Cecil Taylor’ is haunting, reflective and immediately addictive. The rolling ‘Desert trip’ is pure California and you can almost feel the heat of the sun going down over a hot tarmac road. The sounds of Crazy Horse infused ‘Illumination’ is a sterling tough rocking workout which drifts into a funkier psychedelic vibe as it draws to a close. The song ‘New Mexico’ shows that while Wilson knows his influences he is also pushing forward the template of classic American Rock integrating funk, folk and rock plus infusing it with fluttering flutes which begs why in rock Ian Anderson seems to have solely collared this instrument. This reviewer is still uncertain about the choice of ‘Fazon’ by San Francisco rockers Sopwith Camel as the one cover on the album but no doubts exist on the track ‘Lovestrong’. Wilson throws the musical kitchen sink into this starting sounding like a slow Randy Newman piano ballad but mutating into a funky guitar work out. By any standards there are ideas to spare on this album and eclectic innovation in abundance.

Jonathan Wilson has created a true wonder with Fanfare . It is much tougher and fuller album than Gentle Spirit and gains from stripping back the hippie infused ethic of the former. That the album is populated with so many influences and styles is to Wilson’s considerable merit. The musicianship throughout is of first class honours degree standard and despite its length it is an album that engages and grips throughout its duration. Wilson draws it to conclusion with the hypnotic ‘All the way down’ by which time you know that you have listened to something very special and look forward to the reprise.

The purpose of a Fanfare is to herald something very important and in making this album Jonathan Wilson has fully met that criteria.

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