Last time around I found myself exploring Martin Lucassen’s musical territory; I was enchanted by the “less is more” quality of the album in question. I know that is a bit of a cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason, right? Here, on the remixed version of The Night Turns into Morning Light , I find those same minimalist qualities hard at work. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t basic music being constructed here, no lowest common denominator or paths of least resistance at play but neither is it overplayed or dressed up and that is the crucial element here.
Being able to weave impressive musical threads but knowing that you don’t always have to, is an important skill to have and Martin has just that sort of restraint. It means that you remember the songs for themselves and not some showboating musical lacquer that quickly dulls with time. And they are memorable songs; songs blending pop melodies, rock drive, folk sensibilities and casually referencing classic writers and bands from down the ages.
Happy Travellers sounds like a long lost George Harrison solo song, the same blend of British folk and west coast Americana and I Love You More is reminiscent of James Taylor and if there is better musical company to be kept then I will take some convincing. There are also some less obvious interplays at work here, the distant backing harmonies of These Are The Times playing with the same vocal dynamic that was the hallmark of the likes of Deacon Blue and Love You From Scratch wandering some wonderfully contemporary pop-rock pathways.
But it is an album not overly concerned with pastiche and reminiscences, it is an album that, whilst triggering the great and good that have gone before, is original, even when working with very familiar musical hues, not something you stumble across much these days.
Once you stand back from the music, put the close inspection to one side, stop looking at what’s under the engine hood and appreciate the sleek lines and overall vibe of the album, you realise that in some ways it is like having an old friend round for an evening. He brings his guitar, plays songs that you already feel familiar with, even if you aren’t; there is no fuss, no distance, just a sense of being close to the music.
It is somehow laidback and accessible whilst also being slick and dripping with effortless class. How does someone do that? Well I guess if we knew then Martin Lucassen wouldn’t stand out quite in the way he does. But as I don’t see anyone mastering these tricks quite as skilfully as Martin has just yet, he is on safe territory. Safe, not to mention, impressive territory.