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Dodson and Fogg - The White House on the Hill

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 8 / 11 / 2016



Dodson and Fogg - The White House on the Hill
Label: Wisdom Twin Records
Format: CD

intro

Third album this year from Dodson and Fogg demands a little more of the listener’s time before it registers as one of the best that Chris Wade has released under this name


It wasn’t too much of a surprise when Chris Wade released his second Dodson & Fogg album of 2016, ‘Walk On’, at the start of the summer really. We’re used to the prolific Wade issuing more than one album a year, but having ‘Walk On’ ready to go when his previous album, ‘Roaming’, was still relatively new was a little unexpected. Now, just a few short months later, Wade releases ‘White House on the Hill’ his third Dodson & Fogg album this year and which brings the total album count he’s issued under this project to eleven since 2012, a round dozen if we include the CD of outtakes. The Dodson & Fogg project isn’t the only venture Wade has, of course. You’ve only to check out his excellent website at http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/dodson-and-fogg.html or just go to Amazon and wonder how he finds the time to author so many books, the latest additions to his literary canon being his best. So Wade’s love and understanding of music is without question, and the fact that he’s a true innovator and follows no set rules just makes this talented artist one of the best this country has ever produced. In the past reviews of Wade’s albums have been really positive. There are those who might say that the reviews posted on this website, from this writer, sound like the musings of an obsessed fanboy and, given that Wade is one of a handful of homegrown musicians who can take inspiration from pop music’s golden years and shape it into something fresh and new, they’re not far wrong. And I make no apologises for that. Wade is simply an outstanding talent who deserves any praise that comes his way. He’s making music and writing books for all the right reasons and making a good job of it, if only there were more like him. Back in the 1960s artists were pushed by labels to knock out more than one album a year; Wade is doing so because he wants to, and because he has the talent to fill each album with original, inspiring songs. Throughout the dozen albums that preceded ‘White House on the Hill’ and the other music projects Wade was involved in he hardly put a foot wrong. For sure his influences shone through. It wasn’t labeled freak or weird-folk back in the ‘60s and ‘70s but a lot of his work had elements of that genre hanging like a cloud, shifting and changing shape, occasionally darkening his dreamy soundscapes while his love of progressive rock was never buried too deep under the surface. And no matter what Wade or others may think his electric guitar playing evokes the fluid style that Marc Bolan never received due credit for. Wade’s laid-back, at times world-weary, vocals were another instrument that he used brilliantly to conjure up so many images in his songs; he had created a sound of his own and looking back now it feels that, for the most part, his albums were part of the season that they were released in. Maybe, surely, a coincidence but it feels that way now. ‘White House on the Hill’ has been around a little while now. In some ways it marked the end of a prolonged summer and it makes a little more sense now that the days are shorter and there’s that dreaded chill in the air but on first listen it didn’t register as strongly or as deeply as most of Wade’s past albums did. In the past the guest musicians Wade chose to embellish his music were a good fit for the type of music he was making - Hawkwind’s Nik Turner, Fairport’s and Trader Horne’s Judy Dyble, the Trees' Celia Humphris, and Ricky Romain lent his sitar playing skills to some songs which made already brilliant tracks shine just that little bit brighter. Then there was Mellow Candle’s Alison O’Donnell and Scarlet Rivera’s violin; all suitable candidates to enhance Wade’s musical vision, and all of these talents gelled so well on Wade’s songs. As usual Wade provides most of the sounds on ‘White House on the Hill’. His last album found Wade handling everything except for the trumpet for which Colin Jones made a reappearance proving that, for all the talent and contributions of his famous collaborators, Wade was quite capable of maintaining that unique Dodson & Fogg sound all by himself. The exceptions this time are that Georgia Cooke returns playing her flute on one song, Kevin Scott also returns this time playing guitar on a song he co-wrote with Wade and John Garner adds his violin to a couple of tracks. Oh, and Toyah Willcox is the guest vocalist this time on a song she co-wrote with Wade. Given the sound that Wade was creating it was no great surprise that he chose artists like Dyble, O’Donnell and Humphris to back him vocally in the past but it’s a mystery as to why Toyah would be a choice (Yep, I know but someone had to) initially at least. Musically this choice of female singer/collaborator was from a different era and genre than Wade’s other contributors. Was this the album where he abandons the well-loved Dodson & Fogg sound and ventures into pastures new? The song featuring Toyah, ‘Drinking from the Gun’, is certainly something of a departure for Wade. While it features his distinctive electric guitar the overall sound is tougher than a lot of his previous work. Cooke’s flute playing which eventually surfaces on the track, however, gives notice that Wade hasn’t deserted his earlier sound totally and the last verse of the song which Toyah takes alone is more effective than those parts where the duo share vocal duties. The interplay between Toyah’s vocals and Cooke’s playing is particularly successful and Wade’s vocals seem to have lost some of their otherworldliness. It’s almost as if Toyah has led him to places vocally that he’s not visited before. Like much of ‘White House on the Hill’, the song isn’t as instant as most of Wade’s past work. It takes a few plays to really sink in but there’s a feeling that, although maybe Wade’s tunes this time out are not as instant as they have previously been, there’s an urge to revisit them more often. While it’s difficult to imagine any of Wade’s work to date ever getting tiresome, because this latest batch of songs take a little longer to appreciate fully there’s this feeling that, given time, they are going to reveal more depth and intricacy than any of his previous albums. The title track opens the album and while it’s instantly apparent that it’s a Dodson & Fogg song the autumnal feel of the song immediately evokes the work of Nick Drake, an artist who hasn’t readily come to mind when listening to Wade before but who maybe should have done. The third song, ‘Tell Me When You’re Ready to Leave’ which is driven along by Wade’s acoustic and Garner’s haunting violin is, typically of the dozen songs here, both classic Dodson & Fogg and standing just ever so slightly outside of what we have to come to love and expect from Wade. Again the song may not be as instant as his earlier work, but similarly there’s a feeling that there’s more depth this time around. The chugging ‘The Giant’ finds Wade displaying his love of the heavier side of music. Its chunky guitar riffs and his usual searing solos are well-suited to the slightly less weary vocal style that has dominated previous albums. Once again it raises the question of what Wade has to do to get the recognition he deserves as one of our most innovative and inspiring guitarists. The driving, sitar-fuelled instrumental ‘Never Be Alone’ which was a highlight of the ‘In a Strange Slumber’ album, is revisited here as ‘Never Be Alone (Part 2)' minus Ricky Romain but with Wade’s now toughened-up vocals taking centre stage before he displays just what a talented multi-instrumentalist he is. It’s not only his lead guitar skills that shine here; listen to the drum parts. ‘Nothing She Doesn’t Have Anyway’ is a lovely acoustic cut, possibly the most instant song here and the most representative of his earlier work. Back to his usual dream-like vocal style the pretty melody is instantly attractive and when he introduces a gorgeous electric guitar solo (not sure if it’s Wade or co-writer John Garner but it’s representative of Wade’s lead work) it’s truly spine tingling. ‘Hay Fever in June’ is also one of the songs that eats its way into your head in an instant. Typically switching from acoustic to electric as it takes on different shapes, the song is another little Wade gem. Again, typically Wade, he crams more into one song than most do over a whole album. Songs like ‘The Giant’, Never Be Alone’ and ‘Smooth Ride’ explore Wade’s more rockier and experimental side, possibly more so than he has revealed before and it’s the placing of these songs between what prove over time to be some of his most captivating, beautiful songs which give the initial impression that ‘White House on the Hill’ isn’t one of his strongest collections of songs. But stick with it and after a few plays ‘White House on the Hill’ states a strong case for being the most diverse album that Wade has released under the Dodson & Fogg banner; it’s certainly a grower and indication that even after a dozen or more excellent albums in under five years Wade still has plenty of ideas and a talent that sets him apart from his contemporaries. The instrumental ‘Bitten’ is a late-showing highpoint on the album. Wade made all the sounds on the track and his blistering guitar work is simply stunning; again it’s not as immediately appealing as some of his previous work but a play or two in and you’re left wondering just where this guy gets his ideas and musical skill from. It’s almost been the case that with each album Wade has surpassed his previous effort, and that conclusion has been made fairly rapidly; ‘White House on the Hill’ is the first Dodson & Fogg album which has required a little work from the listener before it reveals all its treasures but once it does it proves yet again that Chris Wade is in a class of his own.



Track Listing:-
1 White House On the Hill
2 Drinking from the Gun
3 Tell Me When You're Ready to Leave
4 The Giant
5 Hay Fever in June
6 I See the Rain
7 Never Be Alone - Pt. 2
8 Nothing She Doesn't Have Anyway
9 Smooth Ride
10 Keep Them Alive
11 Bitten
12 Lily and the Moonlight


Band Links:-
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dodson-And-Fogg/282552805161916
https://twitter.com/dodsonandfogg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodson_and_Fogg
http://nigelplaner.co.uk/test2/voice-a-music/voice-intro
http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/dodson-and-fogg-cds.html


Label Links:-
http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dodson-And-Fogg/282552805161916
http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/dodson-and-fogg.html
https://twitter.com/dodsonandfogg
https://www.youtube.com/user/sofaguard


Have a Listen:-






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