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Morton Valence - Me and Home James

  by John Clarkson

published: 25 / 5 / 2011

Morton Valence - Me and Home James
Label: Bastard Recordings
Format: CD


Musically and lyrically imaginative second album and concept record from South London-based band Morton Valence, which tells of a late night/early morning journey in a probably unlicensed minicab across London

‘Me and Home James’ takes it name from Home James, a long closed minicab firm, and tells of a late night/early morning journey in a probably unlicensed cab across London. It is the second album from South London five piece Morton Valence, and follows on from their 2009 debut album, ‘Bob and Veronica Ride Again’, which, another concept album, came accompanied by a 110 page novella. There is no book this time, but ‘Me and Home James’, as befits an album about that most socially diverse and huge of cities, London, is a kaleidoscopic riot of imagination, and musical and lyrical ideas. The group’s two founding members, Robert Hacker Jessett (vocals, guitar, trumpet, harmonica) and Anne Gilpin (vocals, keyboards), have described their band as “an urban country” outfit. There is an element of country in Morton Valence’s sound, and that of their spiritual idols for this record, Patsy Cline, George Jones and Jim Reeves, in their use of narratives, harmonies and occasional twanging guitars. It is country as might have, however, been performed by the Jesus and Mary Chain or the Velvet Underground. As well as a healthy slab of indie rock, Morton Valence have also thrown into the mix the occasional ballad and the blues, folk, Latino jazz and electronica. ‘Man on the Corner’, for example, begins as a stuttering Hefner-style indie pop number, but, as a result of some dynamic keyboard work, soars into the kind of gritty, swirling anthem that might have been found on the ‘1969: Velvet Underground Live’ album. ‘The Red Rock Mountain’ meanwhile combines rattling Latin rhythms with hardcore electronic beats. As the minicab, with its driver and anonymous passenger inside, heads from South to North London, several of the songs on the album provide a brief vignette into the lives of some of the other dawn chorus insomniacs they pass by and briefly encounter on the way. This includes a lonely and slowly souring 9 to 5-er who is pulled back from disappointment by the sudden flowering of a late love on swooning 50’s style pop ballad, ‘These Were the Things I Was Thinking of and Then You Fell Out of the Sky’ (“Shall I walk or take the train this morning/And I wonder what is the meaning of the life?/These were the things I was thinking of...”). A couple, battered but not beaten by a string of personal disasters, realise if nothing else they still have each other on ‘If You Are the River’ (“If I am the river, baby/Then dive in me because you keep me going”), which begins as a sultry lo-fi duet and concludes as a thundering psychedelic number. A Hare Krishna convert-turned-civil servant meanwhile mourns his combined loss of hope and faith in the brooding ‘Bad Times for Hare Krishnas’ (“The streets are all empty/No one gives a damn/We were seduced by some footprints in the sand”), which, all tense guitar lines and lilting backing vocals, ignites into a dirge-like crescendo in its last minute. Best of all, however, is the dreamy title track, which is told from the perspective of the minicab driver and is characterised by a change of key as the cab crosses the Thames from South to North London. The song finds the driver driving his possibly illicit cab because he is hooked on the late night rhythms of the road, (“Sail away/sail away across the river to the other side of town/Sail away with me forever/Don’t slow down/Just drive around into a brand new day”), and where his passengers and minicab might take him next. Much the same could be also said musically about Morton Valence, whose line-up also features Dagenham-raised drummer Daryl Holley and two Colombian born musicians, Alejo Palaesz (keyboards, lap steel guitar and electronics) and Leo Fernandez (bass). Concept alabums are notoriously difficult to pull off, and they have taken considerable risks with ‘Me and Home James’. With their realistic depictions of their characters in all their individual happinesses and failings, Morton Valence have, however, created a work that is evocative and moving, and which, in its rich musical and lyrical complexity, captures much of the heart of London itself.

Track Listing:-
1 The Death Of A Cockney Amorist
2 Man On The Corner
3 These Were The Things I Was Thinking Of And Then You Fell Out Of The Sky
4 Sailors
5 Woman In The Window
6 Me & Home James
7 The Red Rock Mountain
8 Just Another Guy
9 If You Are The River
10 Bad Times For The Hare Krishnas (Homage To Don Van Vliet)
11 I'm Gonna Stand By You
12 Renaissance Amorist

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