Here are my thoughts about the album “Close Up”.
The concept of the album was chosen by a person who was so confident in his strength as a performer, composer, musician and arranger that enabled himself to stay with listeners practically in private. With listeners who mostly thoroughly acquainted with his creative development and his abilities in all above-listed areas of musical activity.
To my mind, the album has both positive and negative aspects. Let's begin from positive ones.
Chris Norman stood by old traditions and wrote the stuff with very good melodic ways which are standard for him. I haven't heard any new or fresh melodic solutions but I was quite happy with old formula for writing songs as well.
The melodies surround you and dispose to a calm perception. At first listening it seemed to me that mouth organ could be added to some more tracks as well. But afterwards I agreed that its dosage is absolutely right. This is not country music, not blues and as a performer on this instrument he is not a Little Walter, so everything is okay with harmonica's dosage. And I caught myself at a thought that if Chris Norman would have gone by the way of Bob Dylan in whose stylistically similar songs mouth organ sounds in every second case, then the music would become annoying and the arrangement would seem like a carbon copied one. So in this aspect Chris did just well. Also I noted for myself that he has advanced as a performer on mouth organ comparing to his play in “Billís song” from previous album. From simple blowing chords he has passed to playing single holes, doing nice and measured solos. Maybe we'll soon get something bluesy from him?
In my opinion, rhythm is a bit lost in the middle tracks. But all in all the album turned out to be rather steady.
Every time while analysing the works of ex-Smokie members one may involuntarily approach with some virtual mould or templates ideally done by the musicians themselves. It's quite clear that life doesn't stand still and they are interested in trying themselves in some new capacities and maybe sounding in some other way, showing us new sides of their unquestionable talent. But power of habit and conservatism make me still fit those templates. And under that treacherous inertia of thinking I began to catch myself on a thought that the whole stuff is a kind of some demo recording. And in final version there will be more backing vocals (according to Chris's concept), nice passages of acoustic guitar will be added (but not only sound of acoustic guitar as a rhythm), percussion will be added, string arrangements will become more rich. But the idea will not change nevertheless. It's my humble opinion that “Baby I Call Your Name” would sound more spectacular (why not?) if there were backing vocals. Of course, I don't compare it with “Eleonor Rigby” but it's astounding in its way and added vocals could make it more beautiful, I'd say, epic composition.
So, while analysing the tracks on that record for the first time in my life I was catching myself on thoughts like ... oh, it's a pity, here I miss that, there tempo is lost, and here refrain in minor key in a la Mexican song is not a best way not to remind about “Mexican Girl”.
So I found myself on such a crossroads (where minus, where plus) with a new album of Chris Norman.
And the only track in which Chris is simply the NUMBER ONE is the closing “Survival”. I have no words. It's just the highest marks in all nominations.
|© Simson (Moscow), 01.11.2007|