Album Reviews

Steve Adey – All Things Real

(Grand Harmonium) UK release date: 6 March 2006

Steve Adey - All Things Real Steve Adey is a studio boffin who has spent his life working on other people’s records in studios around the world. The Brummie born engineer has been slowly stockpiling material for All Things Real, his debut release. This is a piano led voyage through midnight shivers and 3am silences. This is adult music dealing with complex, slow burning emotions and lessons learned through the passage of time.

The stillness in tracks like Find The Way and The Last Remark is more than a little reminiscent of The Blue Nile in their fractured slow drift. Adey’s vocals aren’t quite a match for Paul Buchanan‘s, but there is no shame in that: Buchanan’s voice is one of those rare beasts that only surfaces once a decade. It’s a little more difficult to excuse the blatant lifting of huge swathes of Blue Nile sound, though.

Find The Way is a naked torch song, the bare elements of voice and broken, lingering piano chords drifting in the ether. The piano part was recorded in a disused church and it echos with a quiet elegance. The Last Remark follows a similar path – haunted piano and swirls of ambient sound.

Although they are pretty and played with elegant restraint, they lack the emotional resonance of the Blue Nile. The songs never quite make the leap from agreeable to heartbreaking; there is too much melodrama where there should be melancholy.

The cover of Bonnie Prince Billy‘s I See Darkness is pleasant enough; suitably sparse but lacking the dark thrill of the Johnny Cash cover or the skewered, off-key brilliance of the original. The slowed down version of Bob Dylan‘s Shelter From The Storm is more successful, the song deconstructed completely and carried on the sparse sound of Adey’s piano. The track builds slowly with new instrumental shades added at the end of each verse. It’s an exercise in self-discipline that is perfectly executed. There is real passion in the delivery and a sense of foreboding running throughout. Dylan songs are hard to get a handle on but this is a clever reinterpretation of classic.

It’s a tightrope act when you cover such wonderful songs, however: you run the risk of exposing the flaws in your own compositions. Unfortunately for Adey he falls from the high wire; See Shelter From The Storm is by some distance the best track here. Dylan’s impressionist lyric and sense of melody throw unflattering light on Adey’s own work.

It’s not that these are bad songs, they are just not great songs. The sound of Adey’s piano tends to dominate the proceedings and it leaves the material sounding awfully uniform. The arrangements lack movement or the element of surprise. There is too much drift and not enough thrust. Just as you think the songs are about to take off, they return back to Earth with a dull thump.

If Adey had enlisted the help of an outside producer, I believe the material could have really shone: with tighter arrangements and more light and variation this could have been a late night classic. Sadly, this is instead a missed opportunity.

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Steve Adey – All Things Real