Laurence Jones Band

2019

I suspect that many readers of this review will, like me, have been monitoring Laurence’s progress since the release of his early albums. His regular touring allowed us to marvel at his guitar playing, even it felt a bit incongruous to hear songs like ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’ sung by a young man who looked like he hadn’t started shaving yet!

The relevance of that comment is that the Blues/Rock guitar solos would always carry the gigs, even when the vocals were occasionally on the light side; over the past couple of years Laurence has made a conscious decision to move away from the Blues, so I was interested to review this album to assess his progress.

His regular band now features Bennett Holland (once of King King) on keyboards, Greg Smith on bass and Phil Wilson (brother of guitarist Ash) on drums and together they perform Laurence’s own compositions, save for one Lennon & McCartney cover.

The message in the opening ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ and ‘Wipe Those Tears Dry’ is, as the titles suggest, positive, but neither song really takes off. The following ‘I’m Waiting’, which has been released as a single, is far more energetic and might have made a better lead-off track. ‘I’m Waiting’ also features a stronger vocal and, in Laurence’s own words “There’s only one way to end this song and that’s with a long ripping guitar solo”; the only problem is that it actually ends with a fade out…

‘Stay’ was apparently inspired by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, although their influences are hard to discern. Things brighten up with a pair of Blues in ‘Mistreated’ (electric) and ‘Long Long Lonely Ride’ (acoustic), both of which feature some fine guitar work. Sandwiched between these Blues, ‘Quite Like You’ introduces Di Reed, a backing vocalist for Rod Stewart, and seeks a Clapton vibe without quite finding it.

‘Beautiful Place’ was written for Laurence’s mum, who has suffered with depression; although it and the following ‘Low Down’ are both rather light, there is some nice guitar to cheer any mother up. The attempt to combine Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Cross Fire’ over Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Day Tripper’ doesn’t quite come off; it’s a nice enough Beatles cover, but I didn’t hear much SRV in the mix.

‘Heart Is On Fire’ is, by Laurence’s own admission, the “poppiest song on the album”, while closer ‘The Love’ has “the simplest lyrics I’ve ever written”; sadly his sweet guitar tone isn’t enough to prevent these songs from feeling rather lightweight and repetitive.

I’ve bought and enjoyed all Laurence’s previous albums, so it gives me no pleasure to sound negative about this one, but the truth is that there’s not enough guitar to make up for the lightness of the vocals or some of the lyrics. He’s not the only artist seeking to find a broader crossover appeal, but for now his strengths still seem to lie in the Blues from which he’s trying to distance himself. Perhaps like Oli Brown, who moved towards Heavy Rock, he won’t forsake the old stuff altogether and will still play some Blues gigs; I, for one, hope so.

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright; Wipe Those Tears Dry; I’m Waiting; Stay; Mistreated; Quite Like You; Long Long Lonely Ride; Beautiful Place; Low Down; Day Tripper; Heart Is On Fire; The Love.

Gary Smith

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