The spirit of Peter Sarstedt is alive and well in Richard Stone, the Leicestershire based solo artist who released his third album on September 25th.
Opening with a gentle jazzy feel, moving through hoppy and skippy, and making a stop along the way in the vicinity of the sort of acoustic pop that used to grace the soundtracks of 70’s art house movies, as well as the vinyl collections of every post-grad college student in the universe, it’s clear throughout that Stone is a songwriter who is concerned first and last with lyrics, instinctively finding the right style and arrangement to carry those lyrics to the listener in the most effective way.
It’s a perfectly engaging collection of songs, albeit without an obvious narrative to bind the album together into something that provides significant insight into the writer’s character or his struggles.
When presented with this kind of writing, I like to get to feel as though I’m building a picture of who the person behind the stories actually is. Whether or not that picture is anywhere close to being accurate is neither here nor there, but it’s good to reach the end of an album and to feel that you know the artist a little bit better, and that you feel empathy, or at least have a certain recognition, for his struggle and strife.
Although on second thought, perhaps I’m being unrealistic in my expectations, and slightly unfair. Having been brought up on the vast library of Self-Exposition-Singer-Songwriter agonies, perhaps I’ve set the bar not just too high, but in the wrong arena altogether.
Having been reminded of the likes of the aforementioned Peter Sarstedt in the first 30 seconds of this album, I must also remind myself that until the spread of the singer-songwriter in all his/her autobiographical glory in the 70’s, culminating (some might say disgracefully) with Phil Collins’ Face Value in the 80’s, pop music of this kind was mostly a radio-friendly, engaging, brief distraction to which you could tap your foot or gently sway your head or (if you were really lucky, or really handsome, or owned a car) provide a shoulder for your slightly self-consciously bohemian girlfriend to lay her head upon.
Whether in these days of constant, inescapable self-exposure from every corner and on every platform known to mankind, the rather charmingly old-school light footed approach on display on this album from A Blue Flame can gain much traction remains to be seen. I hope so – it’s good to be reminded of simpler times. In the end, what good is music for, if not to remind us that there’s always another way?
When Your Whole World Turns To Dust is now available