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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Under a Sun
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 25 July 2001
I wasn't sure what to expect from this album but I didn't expect anything quite as different and spectacular as this. From the very first track 'Here's one for you' I knew this was special. Witness are the kind of band that you could easily pass over but they are exactly what the music industry needs, a non-pretentious, catchy band that also have the ability and originality to be so much more. Their debut album, 'Before The Calm' was one of the best (and under-rated) debut albums of the past few years and I wasn't sure that they could do anything better......but I was wrong. With 'Under a Sun' they have shown that as amazing as 'Before the Storm' was they were more than a one album band. 'Under a sun' grows and grows and shows what they're made of, great tunes, guitars, thoughtful lyrics and a voice that makes every song sound so natural that it seems unbelievable that we haven't heard it before. 'Under a Sun' pulls you in and you soon realise that the songs you didn't really notice the first time you heard them are the songs that you'll go back to time and time again. The songs that standout are 'You are all my own Invention' which starts off quietly but then gradually pulls you into a chorus that will stick in your head for the rest of the day. 'Closing Up' is a beautiful song which boasts some amazing lyrics and 'So here be well Again' is a thoughtful song which shows Gerard Starkie's voice at it's most beautiful. It's just one of those albums that sounds different and better every time you listen. 'Under a Sun' is a thoughtful yet hugely uplifting album and should give Witness the recognition they deserve. Easily the best album I've heard this year.
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on 15 August 2017
Still beautiful both musically and lyrically 17 years on. I pull this CD out now and then and wonder why I don't play it more. Perfect, really, even in 2017.
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Under a Sun is the second album from Witness and veers in an entirely different direction from the muffled clarity of Before the Calm. If you are a fan of the debut, prepare yourself as on first listen you seem to face an entirely new band who seem to be writing big 'ol happy rock songs.
On first listen I was shocked by one line in particular which strode through the chords of joy. 'So shine a light, so I can see where I'm gonna go' jumped on me with so much Walton Mountain wholesomeness that the result was a cringe that damaged my facial muscles so deeply that a recovery program has been advised to me that involves 20 minutes of mirror exercises every morning followed by three bowls of jelly. The question still remains, what has happed?
I caught up with the band before their gig in Glow 303 in Aberdeen to find out what exactly had happened to them and why they now sound as if they had been eating Fruit and Fibre constantly since the release of their debut 'Before the Calm'. An album removed from the tradition of the song and that leads your soul into areas of still that you never new existed and ranks up their with REM's Murmur. Was it purely the crunchy goodness or is their something else?
As it turned out, the new sound was nothing to do with Britain's leading breakfast cereal and instead is purely the result of the band being together. Boldly they entered the studio and created this silent mind-shattering album which resulted in tremendous critical praise and a fair amount of touring. 'Under a Sun' is the sound of this group of individuals coming together with their sound and creating a far fuller sound which is far removed from the silent studio intensity of 'Cause and effect' and 'Still' from their debut.
So is this album any good? Well yes, 'it rocks!' as some like to say. It is confident, trying all the time and is definitely aimed at holding your ears open with its pure melodies. Contrary to atmosphere of silent stillness you may expect from the band, the album takes you by the hand and strides forward with you almost running to keep up as the band drag you into this new land of confident encouragement and adventure. As you listen again and again the revolutionised lyrics and new sound begin to take you over and you realise that you are listening to the sound the band truly want to create.
'I've just cheered up a bit' was the comment that stuck out when I talked to Gerald Starkie about the new Witness. Somehow the lyric that caused such a cringe seems to make perfect sense.
Neil Carslaw
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on 8 February 2002
There is not a bad track on this CD. It is a well crafted blend of good music and fine vocals. A couple of tracks hit me immediately (Here's one for you, You are all my own invention, So here be well again). Although the rest took a few plays to grow on me, some of them have now surpassed those already mentioned.
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on 19 July 2004
After the spare beauty of their debut - Before the Calm - this is a severe disappointment. They ditch most of what made BTC great and try to muscle in on the big noisy country rock sound that the Jayhawks (post Olson) did so well.
If - like me - you enjoyed the way that BTC's songs were so pared down that you could almost see the ribs sticking out! and that they crept up on you slowly - then this album doesnt go there. Its as if they have spent their time eating steak and going to the gym - this music has developed muscles (just as Springsteen's did somewhere between Darkness.... and Born in The USA) - which may or may not be a good thing depending on your point of view!
Without reference to BTC - this is not a bad album - hence the 3 stars - with a number of strong tunes, but not enough variety or individuality to really stand out - shame really......
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on 27 May 2002
I had never heard of Witness before when I picked up the headphones in a local record store and played a few seconds of the first three tracks. Needless to say, that was enough to ensure that I handed over my money almost immediately. Witness have produced one of the most melodic and uplifting albums of the year. The songs sweep you along on a wave of intricate guitarwork, heartfelt lyrics and George Starkie's rich and evocative vocals. You Are All My Own Invention has to be the stand-out track of the album. Building from a piano-led, acoustic, opening it rises to a tremendous chorus that will have you leaping you of your seat, shouting "Thank you Wigan!!" (the band's hometown).
An utterly essential purchase.
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on 28 July 2001
After Hobotalk,Turin Brakes and Ed Harcourt equally stunned me this year with awesomely beautiful albums of emotionally charged acoustic rock I was ready to be disappointed , after all the hype, by Witness. Forget it these guys have delivered a big happy slug of sun drenched REM style rock. Every track bristles with quality, soaring,inspirational choruses and perfectly timed arrangements. My own personal highlight is 'closing up' ,which like some of the best Semisonics hooks, you just can't get out of your mind for weeks. They deserve to be huge on the back of this record so tell everybody you know to forget about buying Travis' latest dull effort and buy this instead....I certainly am.
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Some bands just don't play ball do they? In the last two years since their superb debut, "Before The Calm", Witness have seemingly located the Big Chorus button on their songwriting machinery and the gain dial on their Marshall stacks, and thus follow up their slow-burning first LP with a far more instant, upbeat and sun-drenched record altogether. Thankfully although the sentiment and stylistic approach have altered their output remains as organic and compelling as ever, and in "Under A Sun" we've a body of songs that give the impression of being conceived as complete and sinuous pieces as opposed to mere blustering chorus with the odd verse attached. The dynamic, country-influenced "Till The Morning" and "Mines" paint primary colour melodies with lush, broad strokes, whilst "Avalanche" offers anything but sonic landslide, all trickling guitar licks like water off a duck's back and an oceanic sense of space that lesser bands might clutter with instrumental flotsam. We do, occasionally, have to hum over the top and convince ourselves it's not Del Amitri on the speakers with upcoming single "You Are My Own Invention" being the most profligate of offenders and also the title track's heartstrings-by-numbers chug carries a faint whiff of AOR. This aside, there's little more you could ask for from a summer defining guitar pop LP - for work allegedly born under record company duress to produce something more marketable the Witness boys have coped staggeringly well. "Under A Sun" represents a tour de force of not only their expressive songwriting but also a sense of expanding ideas and of achieving targets altogether less visceral than the ones drawn up in the Polydor Records boardroom.
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on 7 February 2002
There is nothing revolutionary about Under a Sun, but there are some top tunes. My reason for buying was, sadly, the Johnny Marr connection. It did not take long however for the songs to get under my skin. Simple, catchy, singalong and fun.
True, the lyricist is no metaphysical poet, but I don't think he ever aims to be, and he writes the butt off the Stereophonics (to name one example).
All in all, if you like great tunes, behind layered guitars with singalong choruses. give it a try.
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on 27 July 2004
I first came across Witness five or six years ago when The Times profiled them as one of their upcoming bands set to make the big time, following the release of singles such as 'Scars' and 'Quarantine'. Their subsequent debut album 'Before the Calm' was a collection of minimalist yet deep songs which did not fail to impress.
This second album marks a profound change in direction, with the band choosing to follow a more expansive route, incorporating dramatic and extensive instrumental backing. Whilst this approach might not appeal to some listeners, the sheer beauty and emotion of the songs nevertheless shines through rather than being overwhelmed by the production. Witness demonstrate an ability to vary their tempo from slow (Closing Up) through to more upbeat numbers like the single 'You Are All My Own Invention' without ever losing either their urgency or sensitivity. The melodies don't so much wash over you as carry you away.
Overall, one of my favourite albums. It's a shame that Witness seem to have disappeared from the music scene at present, possibly submerged by the backlash to guitar music that occurred around the time of this release. If only they'd appeared around now... Nonetheless, definitely worth a listen.
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