Some artists do their best work in early life. Others, as this new album from Norman Lamont and The Heaven Sent shows, just get better and better as time goes on, raising their game to a higher level. The album is ‘bookended’ by two optimistic, upbeat, poppy love songs.
The opener, End of Tears gets the album off to a good start with some great organ and guitar.
Then comes Green Lights All the Way, a witty tale of one of life’s winners – “I wake up in the morning and it’s always my day!” It has a fine guitar solo from John Farrell followed by an equally fine piano solo from John Lawrence, who provides all the keyboard parts.
The Ballad of Bob Dylan (2017) is an update of one of Norman’s best-known story songs. It begins and ends in a slow jazzy tempo with an upbeat section in the middle. There is some fine trumpet work from Phil Ramsay and some very tasty organ too. It’s great to see an old song recycled with a new twist.
Next up is Bamboo, a reworking of River Come Down written by Dave Van Ronk in 1961. David Kenneth Ritz Van Ronk was a massive influence on Bob Dylan and other singers in New York in the early sixties. Along with Eric Von Schmidt in Cambridge, Massachusetts he kick started the whole 1960s folk revival. After listening to Norman’s version and Dave’s original I ordered Van Ronk’s memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street. The lyrics of the song are hypnotic but it builds and builds into a passionate mystical crescendo with some excellent trumpet and accordion.
Then we drop the tempo and the mood changes from mystical to sadly cynical in Goodbye Song, about a relationship break up. This has a great jazz lounge feel (nice!) with some very tasteful guitar from Ged Brockie. Witty and bitter sweet lyrics chronicle the story of the end of an affair.
“You see I got this sinking feeling when you said that we needed to talk (Uh Oh!). I guess that was the signal. It was time for me to walk!”.
Next up the title track, In Another Life is an upbeat, reggae infused pop song with a great ‘singalong’ feel.
Love (As When) is my favourite track on the album. I can’t really say what it is about except that the words, “As When” introduce a series of extended metaphors about being in love, which is a mysterious and inexplicable condition.
“Here in love you can’t say what it is. If you say what it is, it isn’t that.”
Is it like the feeling of your heart pumping after climbing ‘the unforgiving stairs’ after a night of beer? Or like seeing your friends and family as ‘bitter enemies’? You can listen to this song over and over in the hope that it will yield up its meaning. You can feel it but you might not understand it. The song intensifies towards the end with some excellent piano and I think Leonard Cohen makes a cameo appearance. Or does he?
You Made Me Do It boogies along nicely with more brass and piano. Not sure what she made him do but it is clearly her fault.
The tempo drops down again for Damn Grey. Electric piano and bongos give a jazzy feel and a mood of resignation.
“Damn this grey and damn the way it takes all you have to push it away”.
Next up, Had is about loss and resignation.
“I had a memory of you but I faked it from a photograph of someone else and I had you but now you’re gone.”
The album ends on a positive note with Until I Found You, a song about redemption through finding love. The 1960s organ sound recalls the great Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames.
These are all great songs in a variety of styles. Brilliant arrangements, clever, witty, knowing lyrics and excellent musicianship from The Heaven Sent and all the guest musicians!