Hendra Deluxe Edition, Extra tracks
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Recorded in London and Berlin, the music is a meeting of worlds: languid folk, distorted rock and fizzing electronics; in part a result of the album's two central collaborators, ex-Suede guitarist, Bernard Butler, and Berlin-based producer Ewan Pearson.
'I turned instinctively to Bernard very early on,' says Ben. 'I knew his overdriven, string-bent intensity would be the perfect foil to my own warm open-tuned style. It adds tension to the songs. Ewan has a foot in both my recent worlds. He can do thrumming Berlin techno, but also things of great delicacy and grace. I also wanted his vintage 70s poly-synths as a contrasting colour, and a burnished 3-D sound, which of course both play to his strengths.'
The album also includes one other unexpected stellar cameo - Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who adds plangent slide guitar and backing vocals on 'The Levels'.
This format includes 4 bonus demo & live tracks.
About the Artist
After twenty years in Everything But The Girl, and ten years as a respected DJ and record label boss of Buzzin' Fly, Ben Watt announced last year he was parking everything to complete two long-planned creative solo projects.
The first is his long-awaited second book, 'Romany and Tom', a dazzling portrait of his parents. The second is 'Hendra', his first solo album for over thirty years, released on his own new imprint, Unmade Road through Caroline International. It is, in Ben's words, 'simply a folk-rock record in an electronic age'.
It was in 1981 that Ben first appeared on London indie, Cherry Red, as a young nineteen-year-old experimental folk artist. His first single was produced by the maverick Kevin Coyne. With his second - 1982's 'Summer into Winter' EP - Watt coaxed alt-folk icon Robert Wyatt into collaborating on two tracks. His early work drew comparisons in the press to Tim Buckley and John Martyn and culminated in his debut album - 1983's 'North Marine Drive'.
'I put it all away when I teamed up with Tracey as Everything But The Girl in 1983,' he says. 'But as time has gone on - even in spite of the last ten years in the electronic world - something has made me want to go back to see what I left behind. And I realised I'd left things unfinished.'
'In the end I wrote the songs for 'Hendra' unexpectedly. My sister died suddenly as I was finishing the book. I think it all came to a head. My mind was full of a lot of stuff. I just went down into the basement at home every night and re-tuned all my guitars into unfamiliar tunings as a way of beginning again and just started singing.'
Top Customer Reviews
Watt has a good ear for a song and the title track for the album sets a shimmering mood for the rest that follows. There are two versions of "Forget" on the deluxe album and this reviewer is edging to the more acoustic based live version although both are splendid. It is true that the jazzy rumba of "Golden Ratio" does have a slightly ETBTG vibe and what is wrong with that if the music is this good? It is chillout music of the highest order and could soundtrack the slow end of warm summer evenings. Other songs which immediately draw the listener in are the gorgeous "Matthew Arnold's Field" a slowly rolling piano driven song filled with latent grief and concentrating on the death of Watt's father and the scattering of his ashes. In a similar vein the albums concluding song "The Heart is a Mirror" is a song about self-reflection and resilience, which swirls with dark emotions.
More upbeat is "Nathanial" with great playing by Butler.Read more ›
I was lucky enough to catch them both live earlier this week playing everything from this album, and the song introductions made it clear that most - if not all - of these songs are inspired by personal experiences (growing older, revisiting a former home, the loss of his sister and father).
The overall feel of this is closer to his other solo outing of 3 decades ago than anything put out with Tracey Thorn. Of course he is no longer 19 years old so there is more heart and a stronger voice here.
I bought the Deluxe copy of this album and I would recommend you think about doing the same as the 4 extra demo versions with Ben just accompanying himself are very direct and powerful. The guy certainly knows how to tell a story.
Whilst musically this is completely different from Lennon, I felt touched by this album in the same way I am touched by both Imagine and Mind Games. Of course this will never sell in such quantities, but it's a measure of the emotional content to be found in here.
A terrific return with a warm glow.
Ben describes "Hendra" as a folk rock album, and it is, in the best sense of that term. If you're old enough, think of those ageless classic "Island" albums of the late 60's / early 70's e.g. Fairport, Fotheringay, John Martyn, Nick Drake, etc., and you'll get the idea. Yet it is contemporary at the same time. Without repeating Ben's family background to the genesis of these songs, they are clearly very personal indeed. In a lesser writer, this could be a bad thing, distancing rather than connecting. But here they travel well and inhabit a wider landscape. (N.B. If you really want the connections, check out Ben's book "Romany and Tom".) The instrumentation and arrangements are spot on for what Ben's creating. Bernard Butler is a plus, but it's still Ben's album.
I'd suggest you get the "de luxe" version, because the extra acoustic versions are well worth having. (Perhaps there'll be an extended double album released years later with all the demos on it like the recent EBTG re-issues.)
Mostly, the whole album has a cohesive feel to it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good honest songwriting with quality musicianship and no sequencing/technoPublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fantastic CD. Love his voice and everything of EBTG. Beautiful concert last year in Berlin. It's a pity that he is nearly overseen in Germany.Published 18 months ago by Winfried Secker
A life-affirming album. Atmospheric and personal with some really outstanding tracksPublished 18 months ago by Jod