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John Cunningham - Happy-go-unlucky

  by Geraint Jones

published: 6 / 1 / 2003



John Cunningham - Happy-go-unlucky
Label: Parasol
Format: CD

intro

Fifth album from the much under-rated British singer-songwriter John Cunningham, of whom Joe Pernice is a confessed fan, and which draws references with the Beatles, Nick Drake and even the Electric Light Orchestra


Born in Liverpool, raised in Brighton, lauded in France, virtually unheard of everywhere else - admittedly that’s a much-abbreviated version of John Cunningham's life to date though sadly fairly incontrovertible as things stand. 'Happy-Go-Unlucky', John Cunningham’s fifth album, is tellingly titled given his propensity for melancholic, reflective songs of doubt, uncertainty, occasional darkness balanced by hints of optimism. It deserves to gain him a wider audience than he seems to have enjoyed to date. Being released in the U.S may help its profile there, but it’s here in the U.K that such talent ought to be recognised especially given that much lesser talents are routinely hyped on radio and in the press here week in, week out. Perhaps Cunningham’s old-fashioned song-craft based as it is on melodies, arrangements, spellbinding harmonies and accomplished musicianship might be too anachronistic for them. For those, however, appreciative of such things, a sneaking suspicion suggests there are more people out there who do than most journalists and radio programmers realise. John Cunningham’s voice may not be especially strong or particularly distinctive but its fragility and vulnerability, occasionally echoing the likes of Robert Wyatt and possibly Stephen Duffy, perfectly suits the material. Joe Pernice is a confessed fan and though Cunningham’s songs have an undeniably Englishness about them they’re not so very far from the Pernice Brothers’ recent output either. Gently mesmerising brass and strings embellish the songs evoking references like the Beatles, Nick Drake and even hints of the Electric Light Orchestra. A host of assembled musicians flesh out the songs, including the principal players Joe Watson on piano, harmonium, Hammond and Fender Rhodes, Mehdi Zannad, backing vocals, percussion and organ and Paul Portman on drums. ‘Can’t Get Used To This’ initially sounding like a quietly unassuming sketch of a song before building to a guitar and strings duel and ‘You Shine’, a splendidly constructed pop masterpiece, are but two of many wonderful moments sprinkled throughout this delightful album which I’d rate, belatedly I’m afraid to say, as one of last year's best.



Track Listing:-
1 Losing Myself Too
2 Here It Is
3 Way To Go
4 Can't Get Used To This
5 It Isn't Easy
6 You Shine
7 Invisible Lines
8 Welcome To The World
9 Take Your Time
10 It Goes On



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