I may risk being torn limb from limb by diehard Ben Poole fans if I refer to this album as a return to form, but that’s how it felt to me from the first listen. I first encountered his music during one of the much missed Bluesfest stroller programmes in one of the smaller rooms at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013 (a session which was itself released a year later as a fine CD) and I bought his early CD releases (the EP ‘Everything I Want’ and the full length ‘Let’s Go Upstairs’) from him without hesitation there and then.
When ‘Time Has Come’ was released in 2016 it felt to me that too many of the rough edges which gave Ben’s sound its attraction had been smoothed away, almost as if Ben was searching for a new market for his music. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this new offering, but I needn’t have worried; the vocals may be rather lighter and smoother than some other Bluesrockers out there, but the edge is definitely back in the guitar work!
Much has been made of Ben’s love of the late Gary Moore’s music, but to my ears there may be a closer comparison, vocally at least, with John Mayer. Mayer is, of course, a very fine Blues/Rock guitarist, but one whose instrumental prowess has been overshadowed by his voice in recent years; this has rather led his sound away from the Blues and I think that was probably my concern when I heard ‘Time Has Come’. The same comment cannot be levelled at ‘Anytime You Need Me’, hence my view of it as a reassuring return to form.
Drummer Wayne Proctor, perhaps best known as a member of King King, has done an excellent production job, as well as co-writing much of the material with Steve Wright and Ben himself. As well as Wayne, the band features bassist Beau Barnard and Ross Stanley, a mainstay of the London modern jazz scene, on an array of keyboards, including Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, piano and synth.
The music itself is top quality from the start and I’m sure everyone may pick different tracks as their own personal favourites; the guitar solos usually choose mine for me, so ‘Found Out The Hard Way’ probably edges the vote, although the closing pair of ‘Let Me Be’ and ‘Holding On’ (the latter apparently influenced by Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression’) run it mighty close.
It shouldn’t be surprising for an artist to have a closer affinity for their own songs and, for me, the two cover versions, ‘Dirty Laundry’ and ‘Start The Car’ (written by Don Henley and Jude Cole respectively), don’t seem quite as strong. That said, opinions are like backsides (i.e. we all have one and they’re all different!), so the next review you read may like those songs the most; the best thing to do would be to buy your own copy of the album and decide for yourself. Highly recommended.