2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic album - and I'm not 'Josh'ing... (sorry!),
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This review is from: The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter (Audio CD)
Josh, a university educated, American-born singer-songwriter who can be compared alongside such great American artists such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen without fear of hyperbole, hasn't quite enjoyed the recognition his timeless music seems to command. Considering some of the often breathtakingly beautiful songs contained within 2006's The Animal Years and 2003's Hello Starling, it is difficult to comprehend why not that many people have heard of him and yet someone like James Blunt is a major star. If there was any justice in the world...
The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter is a bit of a departure from his previous albums and, reading all of the reviews from the fans, not everybody has appreciated the approach he has taken with this album - a little more polished, a bit more attention to production and, generally speaking, more dynamics and contrasts than any of his previous work. On first impressions, I certainly noticed the difference between the stripped down, folk-rock of Hello Starling and the slick, pop sensibilties the majority of this album features. Having said that, there is no compromise in integrity or in songwriting. This is, arguably, as strong a set of songs than anything Ritter has produced before - they just sound bigger, louder and have more of an immediate impact.
Speaking of immediate impact, the opening track, To The Dogs Or Whoever, really does start this album with a real statement of intent. With a similar rockabilly feel as Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues, it grabs your interest and gets the adrenaline pumping straight away. We're then treated to the moody, menacing Mind's Eye (although the first few bars of the introduction bring The Clash's London Calling into your mind), an epic, stomping piece of brilliance which is over all too soon. The next track, however, is perhaps the highlight of the album. Right Moves is, without doubt, one of the best new songs I heard in 2007. Held together by an inventive, melodic, McCartney-esque bassline and bolstered by strings, brass and some bluesy electric guitars, Right Moves is an almost perfect combination of many wonderful individual elements brought together as one, the most notable of which are Ritter's excellent vocals which boast verbosity and dexterity reminiscent of Elvis Costello or, indeed, Bob Dylan - truly an exceptional song.
Rumours is another brilliantly dark highlight from this excellent collection of songs, with some very descriptive, evocative lyrics. Wait For Love, on the other hand, is a gentle, pretty, understated song and these two songs are a fine example of why this album, as a whole, works so well - the range and vision of this work ticks all of the right boxes, aesthetically, to make this album a truly satisfying piece of popular art. Wait For Love is also reprised at the end of the album, but is given a bigger treatment, becoming more of a folk singalong than the gentle piece of introspection it was earlier on.
If you are a fan of Josh's prowess on the acoustic guitar coupled with his gentle, fragile voice, then there is plenty on this album to satiate your cravings including Temptation Of Adam, Edge Of The World and Still Beating. Those three songs, along with the very enjoyable Empty Hearts could quite easily have been tracks on any of Josh's other wonderful, more folky albums. In essence, I can understand why many of the Josh Ritter fans who particularly love the very folk-influenced songs didn't care as much this release, because it really is quite different from anything he has done before, but his songs really do benefit from taking all of the varied, thoughtful approaches he has with them and the differing directions of many tracks on The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter is one of the biggest strengths of this excellent release.