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John Reilly - Zebulon

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 28 / 11 / 2011

John Reilly - Zebulon
Label: Art Music
Format: CD


Thoughtful and perfectly-crafted debut solo album from Sheffield-based singer-songwriter and former Boy on a Dolphin front man, John Reilly

Sheffield’s John Reilly has been around on the music scene for quite some time now. Probably best known for his work with Boy on a Dolphin, Reilly has also written with such well-respected names as Robbie Buchanan and Jim Vallance, who have had their songs recorded amonst others by the likes of Tina Turner, Bryan Adams and Christina Aguilera. Ray Davies is another musician who was impressed by Reilly, so much so Reilly was invited to open as a support slot for the ex-Kink. Reilly teamed up with another respected songwriter, Canadian Lewis Nitikman, and the pair composed over three albums worth of material working in Toronto and Sheffield. Considering Reilly’s past accomplishments and the fact that he had at least thirty songs from which to choose the final eleven that would make ‘Zebulon’ expectations were high for this album and he doesn’t disappoint. Almost every song here is a perfect little pop gem. Beautifully crafted, intelligent pop music of this standard is rare these days. Vocally Reilly has an inviting voice; smooth, warm and instantly likeable. His melodies are remarkable, again instantly appealing but never wearing thin even after numerous plays. It’s obvious that a lot of thought and work has gone into the songs on ‘Zebulon’ and Reilly has created a collection of timeless songs here. Opening cut, ‘Some Fall Too Hard’, is an absolute pearl of a song. From the off Reilly’s sweet vocals capture you, and when the first chorus comes in it’s obvious that here is not only a songwriter who knows his craft but a singer of immense talent. It’s one of those songs that you just can’t get out of your head, not that you’d want to. As with all the songs on ‘Zebulon’ every word Reilly sings is crystal clear, no lyric sheet is needed and it’s a joy to understand what is being sung on the very first listen. Reilly’s vocals as the song reaches its crescendo are particularly impressive. If Reilly had written eleven variations of that opening song. I doubt if they’d be many complaints given that songs of that class don’t come along that often. but with the very next track Reilly proves that he can tackle a variety of styles with ease. The pounding ‘Building Avalon’ finds Reilly rocking out with brass adding further elements to his work. It’s another sing-a-long tune for sure but in a completely different way to the previous song. ‘Not Alone’ is currently the song which everyone who hears it asks, “Who is that?” It has all the signs of a future classic. A power ballad, which if a ‘name’ artist had recorded would be blaring out of radios all day long, as it is Radio 2 has already played the song a number of times and it’s one of those songs that you just can’t help but fall in love with. ‘Before You’ has a sixties feel to it, while it isn’t so far removed from the rest of the album it does bring back memories of those perfect pop songs floating across the airwaves way back then. The strings, backing vocals and general ambience of the song can’t fail to bring those memories flooding back. ‘Deep And Blue’ is another song like ‘Not Alone’ that captures your attention instantly. By now you’re wondering why John Reilly isn’t a household name and more widely known. ‘Deep And Blue’ isn’t the only Reilly song that will end up being ‘our song’ for some young couple. ‘Zebulon’ is one of those albums where everything fits. The vocals are superb, instrumentally it’s perfect and maybe more importantly, Reilly and Nitikman are obvious masters at writing perfect little pop songs which will appeal to many audiences and will live on. These are not instant slices of pop confectionary that have a short sell-by-date. These tunes are timeless. Given his past then maybe not such a big surprise that ‘Zebulon’ works so well but who would have thought that it would be this good? If you’re looking for tuneful pop music with substance that you’ll never tire of, then you should make ‘Zebulon’ your next musical stop.

Track Listing:-
1 Some Fall Too Hard
2 Building Avalon
3 Not Alone
4 Before You
5 Deep And Blue
6 One More Mile
7 Living With It
8 The Break
9 This City
10 Talula
11 Tightrope

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