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John Illsley - Long Shadows
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John Illsley - Long Shadows

29-08-2016, 18:33
Blues | Rock

Title: Long Shadows
Year Of Release: 2016
Label: Blue Barge Records
Genre: Rock
Quality: Mp3 / VBRkbps
Total Time: 35:10 min
Total Size: 101 MB

01. Morning 2:20
02. In The Darkness 4:56
03. Comes Around Again 4:19
04. There's Something About You 4:49
05. Ship Of Fools 5:16
06. Lay Me Down 4:39
07. Long Shadow 4:01
08. Close To The Edge 4:50

‘Long Shadows’ is John Illsley’s 6th album of a stop-start solo career that
received a notable boost from his last studio album, the aptly titled ‘Testing
The Water’.

If the latter sounded like a marketing tool to find out the public’s appetite
for another post Dire Straits album from the band’s former bass player, then the
critical response was positive enough to suggest he’s on the right path.

‘Testing The Water’ illustrated his growing confidence as a song writer and
‘Long Shadows’ feels like of confirmation and celebration of his nascent style.

Illsley’s niche is born of his acknowledged contribution to Dire Straits
material – from significant arrangements to the overall feel and sound – while
his solo material leans significantly on a J.J. Cale vibe, full of whispered
close-to-the-mic vocals, subtle band interplay and an essential use dynamics.

He opens with a sonorous piano and string led instrumental piece ‘Morning’,
which isn’t so much a thematic introduction as a barometer of the album’s
emotive feel.

He’s a melodic roots rocker who has obviously learned much from his former boss
Mark Knopfler in terms of the value of phrasing with time and space, as well the
importance of the pacing and sequencing of an album as a whole.

The track ‘Long Shadow’ combines many of the salient elements in his musical
armoury to provide the album with a notable lift. He draws on an old school,
album formatted musical vision to explore an essential flow and lever the
listener into some deep grooves, nuanced guitar parts and subtle chord changes,
that somehow feel an essential part of the song.

‘In The Darkness’ provides him with the early centrepiece of the album. A
combination of his strongest hook with some poignant lyrics that search for hope
in a depressing scenario of internet led fanatics, give the song real substance:

“He was looking for a reason, maybe searching for a dream, decided to get
involved with the forces in between. As his finger did the taking to a faceless
entity, promises of endless pleasure and the road to ecstasy. In the darkness
let the light shine through.”

He further punctuates the message with some nuanced bv’s and a gospel finish
wholly in keeping with the overall feel of an album that envelops you with
repeated plays.

He’s happiest when sculpting the bottom end of a groove and then adding his
whispered vocal to evocative lyrics. Not everything works in the same way
though, as the atmospheric ‘There’s Something About You’ is the triumph of feel
and presence over lyrical substance, while the J.J. Cale style shuffle ‘Lay Me
Down’ is all subtle brush strokes, Robbie McIntosh’s delicate slide and feels
like an audio equivalent of Illsley’s other passion of layered paint strokes.

The album ebbs and flows with a laid back, late night vibe full of aching
vocals, crisps tic-toc rhythms and ethereal guitar tones that have a reassuring
familiar feel.

By the time he signs off with ‘Close To the Edge’, he’s back in that dreamy
Straits feel over which gently mugs us with a classic line: “You can’t get angry
with the angels, ‘cos they’re so difficult to find, there’s a cloud we call
heaven, watch your credit cards declined”.

‘Long Shadows’ reaffirms John Illsley’s role as an observational lyricist and
story teller, whose subtle arrangements and expressive vocals help shape an
enjoyable and very accessible album.

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