It’s been three years since we heard anything from Tom Baxter. His 2004 release Feather and Stone, especially its opening track My Declaration, was a Radio Two favourite, but since then, not a sausage. Now comes Skybound, an autobiographical album, which shows off his angelic, dreamy voice with an eclectic mix of sounds and styles.
A woody guitar, double bass and a bluesy, jazz beat, with Baxter’s trademark orchestral accompaniment, introduces us to Skybound with A Night Like This. His voice is rich, natural and soulful, with his stretched high notes oozing passion.
His great singing is shown off in all its glory throughout the album, none so more than the title track. Its classical, Spanish guitar picking sits delicately with a light piano, brought to life with the beautiful strings.
Other highlights include Better, a simple love song. Its heart wrenching lyrics and tear jerking melody are again set aside from other gooey love songs with the magical strings. It’s always the string section that gives Baxter’s songs a little something extra. The arrangements are nothing out of the ordinary, but the production is full and uplifting � and there’s not a synth in sight.
The Flamenco theme continues in Tell Her Today, a strange little number, which seems a step in the wrong direction. It’s beautiful, but the end is a little clich�d – dare I say it, too stereotypically Spanish. It digresses from an album of lovely, simple love songs and tries a bit too hard to be something different. A better job is done on the darker Icarus Wings, even if it is a little like the Flamenco version of Hallowe’en.
No woman could fail to go weak at the knees with Baxter’s passionate take on new and old love and the wonders of finding that special someone, especially with songs like Miracle, Tragic and Half a Man, despite its Beatles I Want You rip-off ending. The effortless vocals, like a One Year Colin Blunstone or a Grace-era Jeff Buckley, are mesmerising.
So, Skybound is beautiful, moving and very lovey-dovey, but it does run the risk of being more of an album your mum would listen to than the latest, original and inspiring offering from a British singer/songwriter.
On my own, I could sit in the dark and happily float away, but I would be embarrassed to play it at a dinner party. It’s a bit too much. Its melodies are a bit too obvious, its lyrics a bit too soppy and it doesn’t have the freshness of Feather and Stone. Baxter’s voice is still lovely, but he won’t be pulling in many young trendy types with this one.