It is probably fair to say that the level of commercial success indicated by such early singles as Sweetest Smile and Wonderful Life failed to materialise for Colin Vearncombe even if critical appreciation did. And whilst Colin, and possibly at times his bank manager, may take issue with the situation, I think that creatively it is a much preferable scenario. Today’s blinkered record label executive looking for three chartable singles per album or chasing Wonderful Life part two, could only be a shackle to the creativity and individuality that has become the hallmark of the man and his music. The pledge campaign that enabled Blind Faith may not be the most lucrative vehicle but the resulting album pays massive musical dividends.
Blind Faith is an exercise in restraint, the guitar work of long-term associate and album co-writer, Calum MacColl, forms wonderful structures, sonic bubbles that often do little more than frame the songs allowing atmosphere and anticipation to undertake the lions share of the work. The rhythms and back-beats support and steer the songs rather than invade their space and even Mikey Rowe’s keyboards exist just on the edge of earshot. If awards were handed out for tranquillity, this would get the Nobel Peaceful Prize.
Colin’s voice has always had the hallmarks of an earlier age, especially on the sweeping, slower paced numbers, it is in these grander moments that the old school crooner presents himself, Good Liar piles on lush orchestral textures and Beautiful truly lives up to its name. Everything comes together perfectly on current single Ashes of Angels, a lilting slice of late night poeticism that may actually unwittingly be the catalyst that brings his music back to a wider, more mainstream audience given the right radio support.
Prophets may be without honour in their own land, profits may also be similarly elusive, but I think that anything that compromises the outstandingly gorgeous music that Colin Vearncombe makes under the name Black, is something the world can do without.