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4.5 out of 5 stars
Love Undercover
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2013
These days members of the Coral seem to be doing lots of work on side projects, perhaps using solo albums as a chance to bring in interesting collaborators and air material that might be at odds with their core sound. Not that that was particularly restrictive to begin with, they have always offered intriguing spin offs like the punky EP Nightfreak & The Sons Of Becker and the Butterfly House (Acoustic Version). But perhaps it's a sign of the group's creativity that there are too many ideas floating around for one band to adequately explore. Their former guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones has moved from soundtrack work to releasing regular albums, like If and A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, while drummer Ian Skelly recently gave us the psychedelic rock album Cut From A Star. Now we find Coral frontman James Skelly teaming with his brother Ian, as well as various members of the Sundowners and Tramp Attack for this collection of retro pop songs.

The vivd red cover depicts the man himself, playing his Rickenbacker 360, a guitar closely associated with the British invasion sound of the 60s. This gives a pretty good indication of what to expect. The tracks on this record feature snappy slapback echo vocals, a raw drum sound and production so stripped back it almost isn't there at all. At first listen it seems like this could a demo tape or a live recording (except that the Coral are every bit as rich sounding on stage as they are in the studio). It's only on the last track, Darkest Days, that the fingerpicked acoustic, percussion and throaty slide guitar begins to sound modern again. In short it's a world away from the reverb drenched Roots and Echoes, although the songs themselves have an affinity with that material, or from the multi-layered arrangements of The Butterfly House.

James Skelly always could write a good hook and already after the first few listens, I find myself wanting to sing along with the album. Each of these songs is a little story, usually focusing on the theme of love, either lost, gained, desired, or returned. Whether it's You and I, which celebrates togetherness and pledges love eternal or Turn Away in which all the good intentions come to nothing but heartbreak, love is explored in all it's many splendored glory. Do It Again questions why a supposedly dissatisfied lover keeps coming back for more, and Set You Free encourages a loved one to break out and make the life they deserve.

The emphasis may be on the vocals but the band is on good form, sounding like a touring outfit and not just a studio project. The album opener You've Got It All, co-written with Paul Weller, brings out a mod beat for a declaration of love, while I'm A Man strikes a defiant tone with mariachi trumpet and country influenced bassline to say, "You can work me to the bone, try to turn my heart to stone, but I'm a man and you'll never take my soul." Little details like the soaring sixties-style backing harmonies from Niamh Rowe and Fiona Skelly and a few strategic saxophones parts rounding out the arrangements complete a satisfying musical experience.

I ordered the CD digi-pack version directly from the band's website, not only getting it just ahead of the release date but also getting a signed poster. (Thanks guys!)

So another worthy addition to the back catalog and more members added to the extended Coral family. Let's hope this means that there will be many more creative collaborations and experiments, and that the next Coral album be all the richer for it, whenever that turns up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2013
Simply THE album of the year. From the momement the album starts the with the stopmpin you've got it all right through to the majestic Darkest Days this is a masterpiece from the UK's best song writer. Hats off to you James , this is a belter!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2013
This is a brilliant debut album. I am really looking forward to the next full Coral album and if this, following on from brother Ian Skelley's recent release is a sign of things to come, then the wait will be well worth it. From start to finish this is a great listen, brilliant new fresh songs with catchy retro sounds. This is not like a Coral album, though a few of the tracks would not be out of place if it was. This it is excellent in it's own right and showcases James Skelley's top song writing and vocals
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2013
This album showcases the prolific writing skills of James Skelly. Each track invoking a variety of emotions. I love it especially Searching for the sun which has that Coral feel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2013
This is an excellent record from the Coral's lead singer and songwriter. To be honest it is the Coral minus their guitar player so it isn't that different to what they have previously done, but it is full of high tempo numbers and has a "60's soul" feel to it with sax and strings that really brings the music to life. If this is James Skelly's new direction count me in.
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on 3 June 2013
Bought this album this morning and had it on in the car and to be honest the first time it played through it was good but, by the third play I loved it - the song writing lives up to the usual high standards of Mr Skelly and the depth and quality of the music to the standards of The Coral. I would say one thing though - don't expect a Coral album, expect something more like an album written by a band inspired by Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Travelling Willburys etc. and add a bit of coral melody to the mix. This will be a great summer album I just hope it is'nt overshadowed by all the safe major label crap being released at the same time. Favourite tracks so far - 'Set You Free' and 'Sacrifice'.
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on 17 June 2013
Love Undercover

Quite simply one of the best albums of the year to date - - simply check out the quality of the songwriting and sheer musicianship here and then go and buy the entire Coral back catalogue!

How is that scousers can play simple chord structures and they sound so much better than anyone else?

James Skelly is a great singer songwriter and one of the least selfish musicians out there - a real lack of ego - letting the music speak for itself!

Buy it, tell your mates and spread the message about one of our generations true songwriting talents
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2013
This album is excellent. I love every track. Buy it, people! My favourite it I'm A Man. Well done to all of you, the guitar work is top notch and your harmonies are sublime.
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on 28 March 2015
Have to say this doesn't match up to other reviews and certainly it's 'sub Coral' for me. I love Skelly's voice but this is old school bluesy rock by numbers, I'm afraid. Listened a few times but got bored of subconsciously knowing what the next chord is going to be. Too obvious, too run-of-the-mill.
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on 4 July 2013
Having always loved The Coral I was interested to hear this CD and was glad to find it so good. It manages to sound both fresh and also early '60s ish. My son likes it but declares there is no stand-out track. Maybe not but when the whole album has such a good feel, it was not something I missed.
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