Those many millions of people who have now bought "White Ladder" may be slightly disappointed by this, David Gray's previous album. With its standard folk rock instrumentation and slightly more upbeat songs, it's an altogether different proposition. It is, however, no less rewarding and deserved of more fame. Songs like "Late Night Radio", "Sell, Sell, Sell" and "Everytime" just serve to illustrate what a great songwriter Gray is. His lyrics are just as sharp as on his follow-up, and the songs no less sing-along-to-able. (Is that a word? It is now!) The bouncy "Magdelena" and the opening track "Faster, Sooner, Now" are actually a departure from the slightly more polished and reserved songs on "White Ladder". Having said that, however, a number of distinctly melancholy songs can be found on this album. Notable are "Smile", which mostly features Gray's voice and a solitary bass guitar and "Only the Lonely", which, you'll be relieved to hear, is not the old crooner's standard but a song in which Gray pours his heart out to the listeners. He's never sounded quite so vulnerable. It's actually quite a change from the slightly more opaque lyrics on "White Ladder". Interestingly two songs, "Everytime" and "Smile", sound like they were recorded live in front of an audience. I can offer no explanation for this, except to say that, particularly in the case of "Smile", it gives the songs a vibrancy and energy that might otherwise be lacking. The only thing about this album that some people might find difficult is Gray's habit of r-r-r-rolling his "R"s. "A gutter full of r-r-r-rain / An empty picture fr-r-r-rame" he sings at one point. If you can get past this (and I strongly advise you to) then this album will provide as much satisfaction as "White Ladder". So it's not "White Ladder", nor does it pretend to be, but if you are interested in the earlier works of this singularly British songwriter, then this is a great place to start.
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