Jonathan Wilson – Gentle Spirit – 2011

Jonathan Wilson Gentle Spirit Cover Art

Jonathan Wilson’s first officially released solo album is a mellow and dreamy affair. And it really is an a affair, in love with everything analogue and seventies. If it wasn’t made in California I’d say it was music to listen to in front of an open fire staring into the flames – but I guess they don’t do that over there.

The title track melody reminds me of Everything Means Nothing To Me by Elliot Smith, the second  a mishmash of any of Laurel Canyon’s seventies luminaries getting together to sing and the idea is in the title -Can We Really Party Today? Desert Raven takes a different turn, starting out like a sixties Sci fi TV series soundtrack it turns into beautiful cascading guitar line reminiscent of America – the band not the place.

Canyon In The Rain takes the Paul McCartney bass phrase from The Beatles Song, Sun King from the Abbey Road album as an intro into one of the weaker songs on the album, but still the mood ensues. It’s as if by this stage you are hoping that he can turn all these obvious influences into something of his own because the mood is inviting you in but you desperately want it to be his party not somebody else’s. Natural Rhapsody is next and takes you straight into Pink Floyd land. He has all the right sensibilities and the skills as an engineer but he makes me want to listen to Meddle. I guess this is an alternative, like Tolkien’s son finishing the Lord Of The Rings sequel, giving us one more book in the style of the author because we loved the story so much we never wanted it to end. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ballad Of The Pines and Gordon Lighfoot’s The Way I Feel are still reminiscent of a bygone era and have touches of Crosby Stills and Nash, although he manages to make something quite different out of Lightfoot’s original song. Don’t Give Your Heart To A Rambler and Woe is Me keep the mood going but in the latter with an interesting blend of Anglo and American influences like some kind of retro hybrid.

Water’s Down takes more of a folky direction, successfully incorporating flute, finger picked guitar and spacey vocals and a great sonic end of the world crescendo. This folky finger picking and flute style continues with added drums and bass on Rolling Universe and a whole lot of subtle  string type instruments and tremolo guitar. A tambourine and harmonies makes this an enticing tune. A characterful lead guitar plays a solo, it’s a sound that people don’t use anymore.

Magic Everywhere is Jonathan just not able to get away from his roots but does it really matter – not really – the record is the antithesis of modern pop and don’t we need it. It’s a formula that threads the 2 inch tape for you. The album finishes with the 10 minute Valley Of The Silver Moon, a lurching electric guitar and distant organ against a rather catchy and atmospheric melody. A long jam that really works, floating along with the band, busy bass and noises. When I dissect this album I see where all the pieces come from, when I listen to it as a whole I don’t care. I buy into the mood because it’s a mood I like. I’m looking forward to his next album to see where he takes it, and although he will seemingly always be looking back I hope he can find his own voice through his love of others.

Jonathan Wilson - Flowers