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Gregory Darling - Shell

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 12 / 8 / 2006

Gregory Darling - Shell
Label: Select Label
Format: CD


Impressive pop album from singer, songer and pianist Gregory Darling, which draws likenesses with the solo Paul McCartney, and finds hinm duetting with Julian Lennon

Singer, songwriter and pianist Gregory Darling follows up his recent CD single with this twelve song album. The two songs featured on that single, ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and ‘Medication’, both also appear here. In spite of the accomplished way Darling had updated the sounds of the 70's on the CD single, the prospect of a whole album of his soft-rock, admittedly extremely well-played and produced, didn’t exactly have me rushing to get the album into the CD player. Thoughts of twelve variations of ‘That’ll Be The Day’ kept floating around. It wasn’t an all together appealing thought. Spread over a whole album maybe there might be just too much sweetness and the sound might just be too professional and glossy. Was nearly 50 minutes of Darling too much of a good thing? The album kicks off with ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and it was a pleasant surprise that the song, which I had not heard in a while, still sounded fresh and it was a pleasure to hear it again. Much like bumping into a new-ish friend again after a few months of not seeing them and wanting to spend a little time in their company. Then on the second song, ‘Shell’, any doubts that this album was going to be twelve variations on the single were dashed. That title track is simply stunning. Darling is a master at coming up with melodies which take no time at all to register. His vocals are clear. There is no reaching for the lyric book to discover what he is singing about and the musicians he has chosen to back him are first rate, especially the guitar playing of Robbie Blunt and Chris Field. The comparisons to both Billy Joel and, especially, Christopher Rainbow, made when hearing the single still stand up, but over the album Jamie Cullum comes to mind along with solo Paul McCartney, which is a little ironic when one Julian Lennon duets with Darling on ‘New Dream’, which is undoubtedly a highpoint on the album. The song boasts the by – now - expected gorgeous melody and Lennon’s vocals add a little roughness to the song. It works really well especially with backup vocals from the London Gospel Choir. Following on from ‘New Dream’ is the second song from the single, ‘Medication’; it was noted at the time that this song was possibly stronger than ‘That’ll Be The Day’, and that still rings true. With a stunning guitar solo, and Darling turning in what must be his best vocals on the album, it’s the kind of song the Feeling would give their right arms for and is far, far too good to be the ‘other’ song on the single. Revisiting it again on the album only shows how strong the song is. Maybe the single should be re-promoted with ‘Medication’ as the A- side? A few plays on the radio, not just of that song but almost any of the songs here, would surely result in a lot of calls asking for more of the same and would be the beginning of Darling gaining the wider audience he so rightly deserves. ‘Feel Like Laughing’ is another strong song; lyrically a simple love song but the lush arrangement and harmonies take the song to another level. There is not a weak song on this album and my initial feeling that the album was going to be too sweet and too much of a good thing vanished before I got half way through the album. It’s an extremely strong collection of songs. For those who welcomed the return of strong, well-produced pop songs new bands like the Feeling are making then checking out the music of Gregory Darling should be a priority. You won’t be disappointed.

Track Listing:-
1 That'll Be The Day
2 Shell
3 Angel of Mercy
4 Soul Love
5 New Dream
6 Medication
7 Lost for Words
8 Goodbye Angel Smile
9 Breathin' on your Own
10 Feel Like Laughing
11 Mystified
12 Serious

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