THE BOY’S HEART (2021)
Another Loving, Careful and Intricate Re-Working of a Modern Classic.
Anyone who knows Martin G Stephenson will tell you that he can’t sit still for a minute; so during our various Lockdowns over the last 12 months he had two choices; and instead of going doolally he set about re-recording and re-inventing a variety of his back catalogue albums; be it the Classic Salutation Road or the lesser known Airdrie (aka Pink Tank) and more.
This week it’s another Classic; the every wonderful (and I thought timeless) The Boy’s Heart which is about to celebrate its 30th Birthday.
As with Martin’s other re-workings, when you play this for the first time, take a deep breath, count 1, 2, 3 and forget the original Meisterwerk therefore treating this as a brand new album in its own rite.
When you do that, the Twangtastic Big Sky, New Light will feel like the greatest song you’ve ever heard (again!). Of course all of the words are here; it’s just that the notes are in different positions (paraphrasing E Morecombe esq.). There’s a ‘fuller sound’ here, arguably more of an Indie feel to it; and after hearing Martin perform this scores of time solo over the years; actually sounds quite exciting in a band format.
Of the songs that are still in Martin’s repertoire Neon Sky now sounds as if he had been listening to Joe Meek in the lead up to going into the studio; especially that haunting electric guitar and militaristic drum beat that pushes his vocal into a part of the stratosphere a voice like his deserves.
The title track The Boy’s Heart has a throbbing bassline replicating said heart beat and again; serves to compliment Martin’s rich voice which is a lot more ‘full’ than when the original was recorded donkey’s years ago.
As is the case with all of these re-workings; as a fan it’s been a journey of wonderful surprises hearing songs that I’d totally forgot about; the guitar work on Cab Attack actually makes the song now sound as scary as late night taxi queues used to be, way back when …… and the way Martin spits out the lyrics sounds like he’s having similar flashbacks!
Wow! Him, Her and The Moon is totally swoonsome, with The Lad crooning his socks off in his best Matt Monro manner; and then Ballad of the English Rose somehow transports us to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains via a stopover in Washington New Town, and is rather delightful because of that heady mixture.
In theory I shouldn’t like the way Martin has changed Sunday Halo; but as ever he knows best and this sparkling and rather spiky version has had me singling it out for regular play and; alongside We Can Roll its gone onto a playlist on my phone for when Summer finally arrives.
Taking a deep breath I’m struggling to pick an actual Favourite Song; as 8.30 Mowbray Morning has been a favourite since I first bought the original cassette; and makes my knees go weak when I’ve ever heard Mr. Stephenson sing it live; and dare I say it? This splendid re-work might, just might be the best version yet.
Then again I had totally forgot about Sentimental Journey; and that stupendous rolling acoustic guitar picking that leads us unsuspectingly into a love song so lovely you can’t help but smile and sigh; as it makes more sense now than it probably ever did. Therefore Sentimental Journey is my Favourite Song here and rightly deserves that accolade.
So; as they say “The Devil makes work for idle hands” but also, “The Devil has all the best tunes,” which may or may not go some way to explaining why after all these years Martin G Stephenson can still consistently write brand new songs as thoughtful and intricate as ever and in his spare time re-work his back catalogue into a contemporay sound for the times without ever losing a ha’porth of their original charm and indeed S.O.U.L.
Released January 29th 2021
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Times are hard out there, so I’m going to let you in on a secret …….. Martin is also giving away a 4 track EP from his latest albums (inc. this one and Anna Lavigne’s fabulous album on Barbaraville Records) and I heartily recommend it too.