As the sleeve photo of Trevor Jones going up into the attic suggests, this, the third solo album by the Miracle Mile frontman, is much to do with the past and reminiscence. More specifically, tellingly bookended by the brief First and the extended piano-backed spoken poem Last, it’s rooted in memories (every day, my first thought and last) of his late father.
Following the prelude comes Ghost of Song, the title of his previous compilation album finally taking on musical bodily substance in a number about not wishing to let go and being haunted by memories snapping at his heels. Melancholic, but also comforting, maybe it’s just the time of the year, but it seems to have an almost Christmassy flavour to the arrangement, tinkling piano notes sounding like ringing bells.
The title track itself continues in similar mood, another journey through memory and mortality opening with the poignant “the first time I saw Harry… nearly 57 and thirty years from dead… the first time I saw Harry, he reminded me of you.”
Co-produced by fellow Miler and regular collaborator Marcus Cliffe (who also plays piano, upright bass and electric guitar) and featuring regulars BJ Cole and Melvin Duffy on pedal steel (the latter also on Weissenborn), the album maintains that soft and gentle mid-tempo approach throughout, Jones’ hushed, fine sand caressing croon both achingly wearied and comforting.
Having said that, however, there is one experimental number, Cartwheels, which veers some way from the musical path with a sparse otherworldly atmosphere of icicle percussion, Lucinda Drayton’s ghostly echoing harmonies, keyboard and steel drones, pulses and effects that’s been likened to Peter Gabriel. Unexpected, but very effective.
Brass and clarinet make an appearance on the quietly beautiful Naked As Adam, a pedal steel streaked memory of golden days and drinking deep the angel’s share that contains the line “I’ve seen too many funerals”, a sentiment that will strike a chord with many of a certain age.
If there’s sadness born of memories of loss in the cascading drifting apart-themed Lovers Never Tell or estrangement (I don’t live in your heart, you’re no longer in mind, they’re just chambers we visit from time to time”) in the waltzing chorus of Weakness And Wine, there’s also joy in the romantic reveries of Three Kisses and St Cecilia.
And then comes THE song. Accompanied by piano and woodwind, Jones’s voice quivering with emotion, the hymnal-like Battersea Boy is a moving tribute to his father, his life, his struggles and how he shaped his son’s heart. Anyone who’s lost a parent will find it impossible to listen to without their eyes welling up with tears. The problem is, how do you follow that?
Although it should have arguably been the last track, it’s testament to Jones’s songwriting abilities that, featuring ukulele and pedal steel, Misbegotten Moon (another bittersweet waltzing romantic reverie) and the wistful five-and-a-half minute My Muffled Prayer with what sounds like a xylophone, form an emotionally complementary coda rather than an anti-climax. The old man would have been proud I’m sure.
Review by: Mike Davies