New album by Neil Campbell
Reviewed by Joe Coventry
William Morris’ utopian socialist novel News From Nowhere is the inspiration for the latest outpouring from guitarist Neil Campbell. On this CD though he shows what an all round musician he can be by utilising an array of instruments from harpsichord through synthesiser to percussion, while being assisted on the way by Laurence Cocciara (violins) and Helen Maher (accordian).
The Outsider leaves the everyday world in search of a new beginning; a life free from the drudgery of mundane existence to a transcendental happiness, echoing themes in Morris’ book. What we get are musical impressions of the journey through a world that no longer exists in today’s urbanised society but one that can be explored in the individual’s heart and mind.
The album splashes into life with hand clapping in the bathtub, a joyous start to the day, which morphs into a reflective reverie on looped guitar and ends, youthful and life affirming. A Market By The Way (in 4 parts), captures the boisterous, bustle and banter of an honest hard working agrarian way of life. This metamorphoses from a bright beginning, through dreamy introspection on the violin, to a last late afternoon whirl by the enhanced multi-track collective, before a contented wistful wind down.
What follows in Kensington Wood is all dappled sunshine and smiling faces, as the guitar lollops along with the hint of flamenco gypsy about it and, after the laughter inspired Children on the Road, the music becomes more racy and uncertain in the ‘keys’ as the whip hand is applied to up the pace for the unfortunate Mulley Grubs.
Reflections on Clara has the mood back on the primrose path of timeless dalliance; The ins and outs of love reflected in the accordion accompaniment that follows. At a formalised dinner the psychological and emotional realisation of ideals fuse in the new reality. Make hay while the sun shines the music enthuses and contentment at the journey’s end will be achieved.
The Outsider is like an Aborigine looking for himself coming back the other way and for idealists in search of adventure. It’s a chance to imagine a release from harsh economic reality: a rejuvenation of jaded expectation from the societal norms that Morris has enthused, and now Campbell.
It’s perhaps not in the composer/musician’s usual compass of output, multifarious as that is, and may not suit all tastes, but the album’s inside cover shows where he is at this stage of his development.
Two more CD’s are to follow later this year, so watch this space.
To buy the album: https://neilcampbell.bandcamp.com/album/the-outsider-news-from-nowhere