Clarke starts with slow dampened fat kick drum beats, cymbal, hi-hat play and, drum stick taps to ponder a dilemma: Kennedy’s dream to-the-moon speech pushing to be the first to land on it and later splash down into the ocean vs. to care more about Christmas, carols and people’s needs. But hey, we have our polaroids, we remember the alarms sounding off, the screeching from the hoard of cars hoping not to miss the countdown, the scatter of twisted launchpad sounds, and finally the rush of lift off. Clarke’s airy, raspy, distorted, constricted vocals drop in with the struggle: gritty like Joe Cocker, scratch-strained sanded like Rod Stewart, with a midrange attempt of the growl-baby-cry depth of Tom Waits. Upright piano, open lid, hard chords may pound during carols in a large hall but never at one of these flight events except for a Hohner-like vintage keyboard heard from out of nowhere. Sadly, minor chords after each verse suggest the moon trip may be “nothing to smile about”.
2. Down by the Estuary
Sometimes you need a song to sing without knowing the words because you love the music. You fake it to drift and be taken by it. Clarke gives you a warm-up with clean bass electric guitar finger picking with minimal percussion behind it. Your response rolls off your tongue with great joy ‘I LOVE this song’ and you start singing with the artist as if you’re one of the members of a choir. Yes, you sound fantastic! What’s a bit weird is that you find yourself fake singing it while shopping, looking for a book at the library, or are out driving in a river strewn delta out in the middle of nowhere! And yet everyone thinks you know the words. How cool is that!
This is good old hard rock and roll… rock drumming, cymbal crashing, snare drum banging and rock guitars strumming away. It reminds me of AC/DC, Rush and other ‘70’s rock bands where you could just blend your mind into the music and be enveloped by it. I wasn’t able to catch the lyrics, but the sound of the words captured my focus in the same way if I were to hear them from a distance. They matched the cadence of each verse. The guitar work sounded a lot like the hurdy-gurdy rock adaptations by Michalina Malisz. I was bummed the song didn’t keep going. I was really getting into its flow.
4. Suspend My Disbelief
When you want to have a relationship but know your suspicions are true. That’s a relationship in flux. And Jon Ian Clarke sings about the hope the other will convince him he’s wrong about his conclusions: “won’t open your eyes”, ‘won’t’ “be just human”, “won’t go through ‘with it’”. The lyrics speak of trying to find the emotion that should be there with love. And yet the other doesn’t care. Clarke’s electric guitar style plays out the soul searching through amped up volume and presence like a cushion to match his suspicions, a mid-bass sound of despair rather than of healthy brighter riffs, and with a bit of spring reverb for a smaller room environment to expressing a hope there is not a need to break it off. The ability to match tone structure with the melody that follows these thoughts of dispirit is exceptional!
5. The Journey
Love that country twang electric guitar with a bit of that note-bending of strings that come with a wider finger spread across the fretboard for greater dexterity and better stable action. The piece is backed with classic light rock drums, rim taps, cymbal play, and distinct electric bass guitar finger picking. Such truth in the lyrics: “You’ve got to make the journey ‘cause the journey is the show’ – the focus of every road preacher out there at every stop. Clarke’s guitar mix shines between verses. And his raspy singing style concentrating on closed consonants and narrow vowels melds well with the guitar melodies.
6. Mileage on the Road
Despite an overbearing guitar volume and the artist’s constricted singing making it difficult to understand the lyrics I picked out the following from this passionate vocalist: a mention of a value recognised: “first time, been a long time”, a wonder of “where were you” in, perhaps their “climb”, a pondering about a “right situation” after “miles on the road”, and an envy for this path that led to “rewriting history”. The vocals were closely accompanied by familiar guitar licks like those of Foghat, Dire Strats, Boston, Journey, Mountain, Kansas and Queen’s Brian May including a few minor pentatonic scales. I definitely felt moved to listen to more songs by this artist!
7. Steady Roller
It’s like hearing a garage band down the street with its door closed: hard driving electric guitar riffs filling the neighbourhood, supportive smash beat drumming, and a quiet vocalist heard underneath the other musicians. Once they caught the vocals dropping in they switched seriously to support him. While the lyrics lost me a bit it due to such tight vowels it was Clarke’s hold to the melody that got me moving and tapping my foot to the music. There’s a good spread between the ears in this mix to imagine the garage band layout. So glad the mastering kept that sound, too!
8. Thank God All Life Isn’t a Motorway
This song with great electric guitar strumming power chords and rock drumming to match sounds similar to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Clarke mixes well the guitar sounds, drums and melody that sticks in your head. Sounds like lyrics were talking about how life can often “push one faster down the road” as hard as a car can on one’s bumper on a motorway. Now that’s pressure! Clarke’s constricted singing works so well for him that I just kept listening even tho I couldn’t make out all of the lyrics!
9. Lonely Wistful River
Loved the distinct metal string sound of rock-blues guitar picking, overlays, guitar pick flapping sounds, and the light rock drums at the songs’ beginning. Jon Ian Clarke sings as if to lengthen each constricted word to fit the contour of each instrument. The technique blends melody to create the draping of yearning and the ‘feel’ of the landscape of a lonely river.
10. Song for Any Old Bad Cynic Like Me
With country rock start, swing strumming electric steel string guitar along with the hard striking snare and clapping hi-hat drums settling into that ballad sound I was tapping my foot to the beat from the beginning. The spread of instruments and vocals across a stage were easy to identify their locations. I rode on this artist’s constricted vocals style that worked so well in this song that I was not distracted by this style. The finger picking sounded like the vibrations were tightened from inside a hollow metal tube. Definitely an original style of singing!
11. High Summer
Like Metallica: hard metal rock with that a two kick drum set foot pounding sound, hard-core rocker flip the head over and over with wide-mouth-get-it-out-fit-it-in and near-scream singing on the verse ends including yawn croaking sounds. The vocals constricted a bit, felt just right with this music. Electric guitars strut their sound with whammy bar use and slide, pull and push string play. Wish it was a longer song! !
Artwork Review for Overtures of a Lost Landscape.
In such a mirrored landscape we check if the reflection of the plants is a direct match with the real plants. We are quickly lost in the landscape. The hope and the suspicion lingers as we try to find a fault. It’s like watching a show hoping and begging that it’s perfect in every way including in every sound we hear. The pressure is hard against our protection of the scenery as it would be to try not to have a bottle shooting its contents to disturb the view. This is a private venue we are observing down to the outlining contour of every plant, real or reflected. Our heart pounds like heavy rock and yet we retain, for later, the values we gained from that moment. This artwork describes the experience of the songs in this album!
(c) 2019 John Koudela III for DJD UK Global Music.