Album Reviews

Steve Adey – All Things Real

(Grand Harmonium) UK release date: 6 March 2006

Steve Adey is a studio boffin who has spent his life working onother people’s records in studios around the world. The Brummie bornengineer has been slowly stockpiling material for All Things Real, hisdebut release. This is a piano led voyage through midnight shiversand 3am silences. This is adult music dealing with complex, slow burningemotions and lessons learned through the passage of time.

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

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

Although they are pretty and played withelegant 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 ispleasant enough; suitably sparse but lacking the dark thrill ofthe Johnny Cash cover or the skewered, off-key brilliance of theoriginal. The slowed down version of Bob Dylan‘s Shelter FromThe Storm is more successful, the song deconstructed completely andcarried on the sparse sound of Adey’s piano. The track builds slowlywith new instrumental shades added at the end of each verse. It’s anexercise in self-discipline that is perfectly executed. There is realpassion in the delivery and a sense of foreboding running throughout.Dylan songs are hard to get a handle on but this is a cleverreinterpretation of classic.

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

It’s notthat these are bad songs, they are just not great songs. The sound ofAdey’s piano tends to dominate the proceedings and it leaves the materialsounding awfully uniform .The arrangements lack movement or the elementof surprise. There is too much drift and not enough thrust. Just as youthink the songs are about to take off, they return backto Earth with a dull thump.

If Adey had enlisted the help of an outsideproducer, I believe the material could have really shone: with tighterarrangements and more light and variation this could have been a latenight classic. Sadly, this is instead a missed opportunity.

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Steve Adey – All Things Real

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