For a man who has spent most of his career as a saxophonist, composer and producer in more avant-garde and psychedelic circles, Always All Around You seems to follow some classic and conformist lines. Not that that is in anyway a bad thing, of course it isn’t, the very definition of the term classic is an “outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality” and that also tends to imply accessibility, familiarity and working in comfort zones. This second album sees Norman Salant adopting the mantle of acoustic guitar slinging, singer-songwriter, one who neatly treads a path that the likes of Paul Simon, James Taylor and Neil Young have left their sonic footprints on.
Whilst there seems to be a flurry of pop wannabes taking the acoustic troubadour route, here days, primarily with a view to shifting units, as they say in that part of the music business, Always All Around You is something apart from that. It is an album made for the long haul, one made the old way and harks back to a time when record labels would develop and nurture an artist across a number of albums rather than merely short-sightedly looking for three hit singles and 2 million sales. Ironically this is an album which in a more discerning world would hit that benchmark without breaking its stride. Remember kids, just because the likes of Ed Sheeran appeal to millions of music buyers, doesn’t mean that they actually write good, or indeed lasting, songs. Discuss! (Ask for extra paper if required.)
If there is a better pop ballad than Grace doing the rounds I will eat my hat. I’d have to buy a hat first but I’m pretty sure I won’t have to. It is dream-like, gentle, intimate and perfectly crafted, under-stated, lyrically engaging and utterly gorgeous. To be honest if that was the only good song on the album it would still be worth the purchase price but rather than being an exception, Grace is actually a calling card for a collection of great songs. Feels Like Rain is a timeless chart groover, The Whole Wide World is a slick slice of blues-pop and Glory tips its hat to Messrs. Simon and Garfunkel.
Always All Around You feels as if it could have been made at any time in the last 60 years but never at any point sounds dated, retro or out of step with fashion. Fashion comes and goes, fads fades and tastes move on, but that is just surface glamour. When people stop being so concerned with pop gimmickry and marketing tricks, the artificial make-up that makes songs beguiling to those looking for a musical one night stand, they will start appreciating real beauty, natural beauty, sonic beauty and those are qualities that this album has running through it right to its core.