Ex chancellor Norman Lamont

They said what? The joy of reviews

For every artist on the bottom rungs of the ladder, like me, it’s a treat to get a review online or in a magazine. Sometimes the joy at getting it temporarily blinds us to what they’re actually saying. And when I read them, sometimes I honestly haven’t a clue what they’re saying. 

Here’s a selection of the more impenetrable ‘compliments’ I’ve had:

OK – this one from Skope magazine’s clearly complementary if a bit florid:

Each song has a blissful tale of contemplative life lessons, love lost and yearning. He pours his heart into his musical pursuits and it is revealed through whimsical productions and a solid mix of prosody between his words and music.

If you are looking for something original unlike anything you have heard before, look no further. Norman Lamont is a hidden secret that needs to be shared with the world. I enjoyed the journey this CD took me on and feel compelled to expose the talent that Lamont so naturally creates.


Tell Tale Songs

FREE introduction to Norman's music - Tell Tale Songs mini-album

Of course most of them have to bring in a certain politician. Usually it’s just a passing mention, but this one, from FATEA, really goes to town. So much creativity spent making analogies between the former chancellor and your humble correspondent. For what end?:

I’m sure that Norman Lamont is fed up with reviewers drawing witty comments by making cheap comparisons with a badger browed, incompetent, politician of the same name. (Yes, but don’t let that stop you – N) The only thing they appear to have in common is the blues, though here one delivers in the musical genre, the other delivers the blues via incompetently enforced interest rates.

The List managed to bring Mr Ex-Chancellor and Leonard Cohen together:

Ayrshire-born, Edinburgh-based maverick Norman (pot-pourri poet, not prickly politician!) could be Scotland’s answer to Leonard Cohen, albeit with a wicked sense of irony.

I thought Cohen always had a wicked sense of irony myself.

Cheers to The Skinny for this:

Norman Lamont (don’t, he’s probably sick of it) is a well-known singer / songwriter on the Edinburgh acoustic scene.

But as the review goes on, he can’t resist!

Lamont proves himself to be an accomplished mood-setter and lyricist, with the overall effect one of quiet, rueful reflection. If all this seems a bit gloomy, there’s a bit of skanking to raise the mood on I’ll Be Back. If this sounds like your thing, Roadblock is well worth budgeting for in these times of economic crisis. 

Even RnR Magazine last year started its review of In Another Life with

If you were this Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter, you’d surely be sick of saying “No, not that Norman Lamont.”

Er, yes.

I was grateful for the review, the only one the album got, which clearly showed the reviewer had listened to every track. Again it was complementary but not always that easy to understand.

Lamont is a storyteller whose entertaining, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with self-assured laconic panache. These come beautifully packaged by his accomplished backing quartet and assorted guest musicians, as amply demonstrated on the lusciously lustrous Indo-Eastern Bamboo.

Most of my reviews when I get them, have been good. The bad ones tended to be rejections from music blogs, sent privately and not published.

In my opinion this song isn’t so interesting and I’m actually not liking the vocals (perhaps it’s the recording, but it doesn’t sound that good to me). Sorry!

And this mini-essay which, surprisingly, is a rejection note:

Yep we’re very much in a sea of regret, and the tide is against us but not enough so it affects our creative output and so this tune comes across like a rallying call rather than an admission of defeat. How else could you explain those harmonies, albeit ones soaked in tears. A song that warms considerably as we did increasingly towards it.

Most of the criticism I got in these rejection slips was for the quality of vocals. I’m used to that. A good friend tactfully said ‘Have you ever considered getting someone else to sing them?’ Answer: yes.

Some were constructive and specific:

I love the lyrics and the emotion, and the vocal is wistful and yes somehow British; you lose me with some of the noodley piano licks, and mainly because the guitar chop and the snare hits are not lining up.

So a genuine critique of the final recording. Fine. I like ‘somehow British’.

One I really prized was from Sid Smith, an established writer and biographer of King Crimson. He liked Roadblock a lot, but didn’t hold back about the tracks he didn’t like.

A crisp production presents acoustic-based songs laced with some dreamy slide guitar, arctic Lanois-style trimmings and some gorgeous violin flourishes and arrangements. Fronting it all up, Lamont’s voice trembles within the skin of bittersweet melodies that is reminiscent of a nasal Ray Davies, and it’s this likeable fragility which delivers the chills on a run of three standout tracks – “Dorothy’s Book,” the epic ambitions of “The Spell” and the darkly sublime “Anywhere But Here.” These 16 minutes (plus the deliciously gloomy ruminations of the excellent title track) shows Lamont to be a songwriter of depth and imagination.

Only the frankly baffling inclusion of reggae-based clunker “I’ll Be Back” and the ill-fitting strut of “When I Came Home From Egypt” distort the otherwise brooding atmosphere which Lamont creates throughout the rest of the album with such care and attention.

Those two seemed to become the most popular songs with fans. But I appreciate the songs he liked are the ones I like most.

I’m not complaining about any of this – I’m grateful for any attention and for any review and these were all written with the intention of encouraging people to listen. But looking back, some of them really are funny.

Photo credit: Keir Hardie on Flickr

UPDATE

After I’d published this my friend James Whyte sent the following:

You forgot one …

“His second song was an older one – in fact Norman claims not to remember
writing it! This was more melancholy – in fact it occurred to me that if
you tried playing The Beatles’ “Blackbird” backwards, in a minor key
immediately after being dumped, whilst fitting in lyrics such as “if you
had only said you needed an arm around your shoulder”, you might come up
with something similar.”
*- James Whyte, 2005*

He means this one:

1 thought on “They said what? The joy of reviews”

  1. Norman, thank you for sharing these reviews. You are courageous and I applaud your dedication to your craft. I especially like ‘s-alp’…sounds like a good line in a song. Cheers!

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