Having already won me over with previous release Shadows In The Mind’s Eye and proven that there is room for a modern take on the much maligned concept album without it having to carry all of the musical baggage of previous eras, A Friend in Old Sol really underlines that point. For A Friend in Old Sol is a gentle and considered piece, it grooves on a slightly ska infused piano line, mellow calypso vibes, and little else. The vocal undertakes a duet with an emotive whistle to great effect and if you are looking for a lead instrument on such an understated song, this would be it…not that it ever goes for the showboating, spotlight, merely acting as a subtle and supple response to the lyrics. A dance partner, if you like, and a very good one.
And lyrically the song seems to be a simple celebration of his friend, the one constant in his, and indeed all our lives, The Sun. Always looking down on us “silly little things” below, never faltering in its journey, constant, dependable and, lets face it, essential. And it is a theme that has been prevalent in music since the first humans thought to beat rhythms on logs to make sure that the sun came up each day and the rains fell on their crops. Now we have a better understanding but still call that celestial ball our friend, and why not, has he ever let you down?
When the term “world music” crept into the public consciousness it tended to be the domain of a certain type of guy (and it generally was a guy). One who would use the fact that you hadn’t heard of a certain Moroccan hip-hop/jazz fusion band or his new favourite Mongolian Tuvan choir, to play his favourite game of one-upmanship with you. Well, we quickly saw through him and soon realised that there is no such thing as “world music” there is just the world and its music. And A Friend in Sol is very much music that represents the cross cultural nature of the ever shrinking global village that we live in. Less a genre, more a gesture.
It effortlessly crosses borders, both generic and geographical, it splices ideas and sounds, musical concepts and creative thought processes. Let me draw a line connecting old school theatre traditions and Wodehousian musical whimsy with Celtic folk, another from chilled uptown jazz clubs to the sun kissed beaches of The Carribean, and then many more connecting places and thoughts, music and stories that have no business being connected. Stare at the pattern of the lines for a long time, and then shut your eyes. The stars dancing behind your eyelids is the music of this intriguing project.