Woolly Wolstenholme and Maestoso
One Drop In A Dry World - Your Reviews
Well, I've had One Drop on the CD player for almost 2 weeks now and have given it a thorough going over! Out of interest, I've just been back and re-read some of the earlier reviews from this list to compare them to my impressions. Some were rave reviews and whilst I don't personally subscribe to the view that this is a classic album I do agree that it's mighty fine stuff. It has, as you would expect, the unique Woolly keyboard and quasi-orchestral sounds in abundance, but there is also a very distinctive 'tinny' guitar sound too. It is indeed 'eclectic', and quite adventurous. Briefly, track by track, all in IMHO, of course:
The Bells! The Bells - Pure Woolly! Full of drama and some excellent keyboard work. Similar to Ra in its sense of awe, and so much better than the dreary Hors D'oeuvre on Nexus.
Blood and Bones - Continues in the dramatic vein. The end piece of Requiem and the orchestral movement are quintessential Woolly.
A Waiting Game - After the orchestral opening, some lovely picked guitar. Full of irony and black humour - excellent lyrics.
It's U - Sounds like a cross between a 60s hit single and a 70s summer anthem. One of the weaker tracks.
Souk - A rip roaring gem of a track. Has the feel of Kashmir era Led Zeppelin.
One Drop - Clever lyrics. Captures the morbid alcoholic mood pretty well (been there, done it, got the t-shirt!).
ANSS - Another weak track which occasionally ventures too close to Typically Tropical's Barbados for my liking.
The End of the Road - A lovely track. However, it strikes me that Les is regularly accused of being too AOR, or MOR, or something-else-OR. This track wouldn't necessarily be out of place on a Les album, but no such criticisms have been levelled at Woolly. Perhaps I'm too musically niaive to appreciate the distinction.
Explorers - Already reviewed as TOTF - but very uplifting.
2 a.m. - Fantastic track. Excellent lyrics, super bass and some of the best vocals on the album.
The Starving People - Doesn't work for me on any level.
Carpet - Naughty but nice!
Top tracks - Souk and 2 a.m.
Not so good: It's U, ANSS, The Starving People.
The rest are good to very good.
I know comparisons are odious (allegedly) but I can't help but compare the three solo(ish) efforts which have been served up recently. I found Nexus very disappointing - perhaps John's next effort, whenever it comes, will be all the better from being freed from the chains of re-workings of old classics. Revo Days had the best recording sound/production of the three and reasonably consistent quality of tracks. One Drop just shades it as my favourite to listen too.
I've held back from sending in a review because of the overwhelmingly positive reviews on the list.
I'm afraid that I found One Drop very disappointing. You must remember that recently I've have bought Maestoso (original album) and Black Box Recovered, and also Revolution Days. I would rate all three of these albums as much better than One Drop, particularly the magnificent Black Box, which stayed in my car CD player for months.
My son ends up listening to my music when I transport him and his drums to various gigs. He likes a lot of my music, and tolerates even more on top of this, but could not stand One Drop. He is shortly to start a Sound Engineering course at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (Paul McCartney's place) and commented how poor the production was on One Drop, with indistinct vocals, guitars and other instruments mixed too high or too low. It has a rushed feeling - and I would comment that some of the vocals are not Woolly's best. Also too often there are wonderful melodies, spoilt by discordant melodies later in the song. Blood and Bones is the classic example of this - the chorus is awful, despite a lot of the song being of high quality.
There are lots of good bits on the album, but most songs are spoiled in part by problems, with the possible exception of A Waiting Game. The latter is the only track I would listen to in preference to *any* track on Maestoso or Black Box.
And although The Starving People must have seemed a good idea at the time, it is excruciatingly bad and unlistenable to me. I have forced myself to listen to it twice all through, but never again. The alternative version on the bonus CD is much better :-)
My advice to anyone wanting to hear Woolly at his best is to buy Maestoso or Black Box.
I'm sorry to be so negative, and for ages I have been wondering whether to post anything at all, but this (above) was the first review that I have seen that really made any negative comments about One Drop.
(And I'm not part of the Les is wonderful brigade, although I do like Revolution Days. I also had two tickets to see Woolly at Manchester, and would wish to continue to support him.)
My feeling is that a more critical listening ear should have been applied to One Drop, and more time should have been spent on production. Also someone should have had the courage to tell Woolly to remove Starving People from the main album.
I recently received my much anticipated copy of One Drop in a Dry World, the new release from Woolly Wolstenholme and his band, "Maestoso". For those of you not familiar with Woolly, he formerly was the key player in Barclay James Harvest and is one of the world's best Mellotronists. For all of you Mellotron fans, I will state right off that this is one of the best "Mellotron" albums I have heard in years. However, beyond that this recording is truly great on many levels. Not only is the musicianship first rate, but the songs are well written and will touch the listener on many levels.
This is the first full studio recording from Woolly in probably twenty years, and whatever was bottled up inside him is presented here for all to hear. As you listen to the recording it is worth reading the lyrics as you go. What first becomes apparent is that these songs reflect the emotions of a man who has gone through some dark periods in his life. They are filled with sadness, melancholy and sardonic humor. Ultimately they leave the listener with a sense of hope, as though the artist has laid his demons out before us and is now prepared to leave them behind. All he needs is a little encouragement.
It all begins with Woolly saying, "Here we go." And we do.
1. The Bells THE BELLS!
This is a short instrumental into filled with big Mellotron strings over a sustained synth base and leads us into...
2. Blood and Bones
This may be the one of the greatest "Mellotron" tunes I've heard in years and it may be the biggest song Woolly has yet written. It begins with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro and moves into a pounding base line and soaring Mark II or perhaps M300 Strings. Soon comes a beautiful, pastoral interlude (Requiem) that soon launches us back into a full blooded Mellotron assault. From here we get a brief taste of Ian MacDonald Flutes then a repeat of the theme from the "requiem" and finally we are hit with the chorus backed by Mellotron "Russian Choir." Very dark and forboding! As the song fades we hear Mellotron "Boys Choir" as if after our dark journey, Woolly leaves us with the sound of angelic innocence. The is a Huge Tron tune that will blow you away!
3. A Waiting Game
Woolly delivers the first great Christmas song of the year! This one is sure to be in my holiday song rotation from about Labor Day (end of August) through to the New Year. (Woolly gives the commercialization of the holidays a swift kick) And a pretty melody to boot.
4. It's You
When you're down and feeling out of control of your life, casting around for someone to blame... look in the mirror. This track was apparently written years back. It opens with jangley guitars and is a straight out rocker that is ultimately uplifting. Perhaps the author wrote a song to himself that we can all identify with.
Woolly takes us all shopping in an open air Arab Market. Tremendous Mellotron here with a Mid-Eastern atmosphere. Perhaps Woolly vacationed in Oman and brought us all back a gift.
6. One Drop in a Dry World
How to know when your an alcoholic. You get to pay the bill more than once and to learn that enough no longer is. Strong guitar work from Steve Broomhead that reminds me of Robin Trower. Lots of Mellotron Choir toward the end.
7. Anss (Another Nothing Summer Song)
In this one Woolly channels his inner Rasta Man and goes on vacation only to bump into Brian Wilson. Fun and shenanigans ensue.
8. End of the Road
Mid-life Crisis anyone? A man coming to grips with accomplishments unattained as he faces an unsure future. Could Woolly be reflecting on where he perceived his career was before he wrote and released this masterpiece? Once again, excellent guitar work from Steve. Listening to this song I am convinced that Woolly has either spent some time with Brian Wilson recently, or at least has listened to his work. It certainly sounds like a song Wilson could have written at his peak (if his peak was now.) Even the vocals a little.
My take on this: Woolly's thoughts on where he and the band are heading now. This recording is very important to him and the band. Let us wish them good fortune in their journey. Buy the CD... See the show. Help make the trip a successful one.
10. 2 a.m.
This song again reminds me of Brian Wilson. Not for the sound or style, but because this is the song that the boy who wrote "In My Room" at 20 could have written as a man at 55. Woolly tells us what it was like to be alone with his thoughts living inside himself in the middle of the night. A haunting song of depression. I am sure most of us have had a night like this more than once. Perhaps this is where Woolly reveals the most about himself? This is the most beautiful melody of any song on the CD. Lots of haunting Mellotron strings. Beautiful bass playing by Craig Fletcher sets the atmosphere of the song. This is my favorite!
11. The Starving People of the World all Thank You For Your Time
Repeated over and over until the message occurs to the listener.
12. Carpet (a four gong conclusion)
Was this written to BJH? Woolly reflects on what could have been. Someone goofed up. Who's to blame? You decide. Who killed the brotherhood? No one left to share the memories with. The end of the song will remind you of BJH.
So this is my take on the record. No use delving into the "bonus" tunes although they are worth listening to, especially the earlier versions of "It's You" and the entire "Requiem" from "Blood and Bones." I think this is an outstanding recording from a man who has been away far to long. I encourage everyone to purchase it and listen to it several times back to back. It just gets better and better. It is obvious that unlike many other artists who have been around for as long as Woolly has, he is not mired in the styles of the 70's, 80's or 90s. This is fresh material and the production is terrific.
If you are into Mellotrons, you will fall out when you hear this CD. In the CD booklet Woolly lists Mellotron first amongst the many instruments he plays on this CD and it's upfront and all over it but very tastefully utilized. You will see why he may well be the real true, "Master of the Mellotron."
I would like to ask Woolly for his forgiveness of my review if he doesn't like it, and for my interpretation of his lyrics. Woolly, I've shared some of these journeys in my life, and I am touched by your work. As for the comparisons to Brian Wilson... Please take them as a compliment.
[This review first appeared on the Progressive Ears web site].
A review, well I am no good at this sort of thing I am the typical "I do not know a lot about art but I know what I like" sort of person. And this album I DO NOT LIKE, no I am sorry to say I do not like it, I LOVE it.
It may be called One Drop in a Dry World, however this album contains a whole flood of wonderful sounds. I can see why BJH and Woolly never liked being labelled Prog. Travis (late of this list), called early BJH Symphonic Rock, a term I have heard Rick Wakeman use for certain music. However even that does not describe this album, it is so rich in sounds that it can only be called, Woolly music.
So Woolly what ever it is , I say to you keep doing it.
Call me a sentimental, but since Mel Pritchard's death I've found it hard to listen to BJH for some time; it was only that I didn't feel like doing it as always. It seems I was kind of mourning. Nevertheless, I was definitely lacking the music, so the new Woolly's album has mitigated the abstinence syndrome... but with an overdose of great music! It's really hard to believe that after so many years retired from music he has returned not only with one (BJH) but with two (Maestoso) great projects. I remember using Woolly's return to music as an example of something utopian or impossible like "that would be great, but it's more unlikely than Woolly recording an album again". From now on anything can happen. The quality of the songs is amazing, with Mellotron and 12-string without reserves. No need to speak about each song, all are great and some masterpieces. The production is really good, Woolly's voice and keyboard wizardy as wonderful as always (personally I would have appreciated a little more piano) and the band is fantastic. To be honest, I guess it's difficult that they'll be playing live again (however we've seen stranger things, haven't we?) but if there is ever any other concert I can tell you that I'll try my hardest to be there. How couldn't I? Do you realise that they did play Early Morning?
Maybe it's only a drop in a dry world, but man what a drop!
I have now played "One Drop..." every day more than a week. It has turned out to be an amazing good album. Simply. That statement becomes stronger especially because of one certain reason: Occasionally I felt almost sick because of all the beforehand-praising of the album in the discussion list, even though no-one had heard a single track of it. Or was I the only one who hadn't? (outside the short clips in the WWWWW-site). I would not prejudice pre-evaluate an album just based on who makes it, even though it is Woolly (or Les). Now I feel relieved having said this, and especially after listening the album. Somebody compared it with "In Search Of England". That's a good comparison, IMO. That is one of Woolly's very best, and there is a certain kind of agony, like someone mentioned. The same feeling is present in many Woolly's songs. It is also present in "One Drop..." BTW: The same kind of agony is found in many of John's songs, too, although more seldom in the post-Woolly production.
I just wanted to confess that my prejudices were wrong. If You don't have this album, then buy it. It's worth that.
You know, I really get to the point sometimes when I really WANT to like something, in spite of how good it is - give it more credit than it's due.
However after given "One Drop" a few good listens, I have to say this may be perhaps the best singular output from any BJH and related solo releases since XII. (I would actually say TOTT, but I know how much people dislike that album!)
This is the type of music that made me love BJH way back when.
I've listened to the album a few times now so here's a sort of review (at least). Overall I'm a little shellshocked by the whole thing. It's one of those that sinks its claws in and won't let go. A benevolent parasite? Time will tell but I doubt if I'll ever be rid of some of it. One thing's for sure, it's not easy listening, background music. I played it quiet and it doesn't work. Marion suggested it was dirgey but freely admits this sort of thing is not her cup of tea. It demands your full attention and prefers the volume to be turned up. I just think the whole hits the spot perfectly. The music is challenging and there seem to be recurrent themes throughout with almost interchangeable sections providing a coherent whole. The lyrics are very thought provoking at times but nearly always they stand up on their own merits. The CD booklet is just typical, lots of strange in-jokes. "A hole", yes definitely", the tricky mix etc. What else other than "very, very Woolly".
So here's the voting from the southern jury.
The Bells, THE BELLS
The return of Qusimodo from Sunday Bells only much older and not so able to pull on the ropes. Now he uses hand bells to summon the faithful. He pops up later on too. Very curious use of 'tron here - no concessions to making it sound like real strings - it just sounds like real mellotron! Excellent scene setter but leaves us hanging in mid air before....
Blood and Bones
Visceral and strident! Woolly attemps "the meaning of life" question and concludes "there's so much more...". A brief respite in the requiem - Woolly does Enya? - before returning to finish the job.
A Waiting Game
Glowing chestnut hues and the warm breeze of a late Indian summer wrecked by the crass commercialism of the Xmas industry. A hard job of clearing out, but wouldn't it be nice to linger, basking in the warm radience of the autumnal sunlight.
A jolly romp disguising the indecisions of youth? No, I still can't make my mind up either.
Now, is this Souixsie's "Arabian Nights" meets "The Old Bazaar in Cairo"? (http://sniff.numachi.com/~rickheit/dtrad/pages/tiBAZAARCA.html). I'm not telling. Now do you want to buy some dirty postcards?
One Drop In A Dry World
Oh, my head, turn the lights off, whay do my teeth itch? This creeps in with the dawn and you find the empties strewn all over the floor, the coffee cups are full of dog ends and there's something unmentionable and reeking behind the radiator in the loo becuase someone didn't quite make it. The melody rolls around like the slops in your stomach, punctuated by the crashing in you head as you place one foot, more or less in front of the other. Who's for a good fry up?
"A couple of years in the army would soon sort 'em out". No it wouldn't, it would just make them more effective. So just why is it cool to get so blitzed on a night out you can't remember what you were doing? Everything I loath about the little England tribe abroad (and at home).
The End Of The Road
Sorry, this one escapes me as yet. Is it where we're all going? No pedal steel guitar (Thank God) so just which country is it?
Carry On Jack, Here be dragons......Very jangly, sea shanty in the round. Go on, take a chance and fall off the edge. Oh no you won't you'll just come round from the other side.
Great, I can't switch off either. Round and round and round. Not the sleep of reason bringing forth monsters, the monsters won't let us sleep in the first place. Guilty consciences? I don't think so.
The Starving People...
...could do with a square meal.
Mind those gripper rods! An axminster best laid cold - you know who you are! History repeating itself as well. Plus Quasi's final bow.
It's all here, complex, multifaceted, passionate, emotional. Even in its lesser moments never less than enthralling. Cheers Woolly, a astonishing achievement,
... no. 9 of 200 finally dropped through my letterbox on Sat when I was out for the day. I've managed a listen to the whole two disks plus a half-listen to the main one over the weekend, since I had my daughter to occupy my time. I'll try and post my one-word review asap after a few more listens.
All I can say is that I have been completely blown away so far with the limited exposure I've had. This is music at it's best - layered, complex and rewarding, whilst offering up instant gratification until you discover the gems underneath. I would say that it's best listened to loud on a pair of quality headphones.
Current favourites are "The bells, THE BELLS ", "Flip" and "Blood and Bones". The break into the requiem and then the build up back into the main body of the song again just send the shivers down my spine. Blinding brilliance. I've been waiting for a track like this since Maestoso. "Float" was heading there, but this has hit the spot.
Woolly - thank you. You have been truly missed - fantastic to have you back again !
Now..... how about an Edinburgh gig.... ??!!
I have been totally knocked out by 'One Drop In A Dry World'. I have played this album six times this weekend. I am finding it hard to listen to anything else at the moment.
This album is so brilliant it has caused me to re-appraise Woolly's talents. I always knew he was good, but I never realised he was this good!
The album is musically powerful and quite raw emotionally, and it reminds me a lot of Peter Gabriel's 'Up' album. Woolly even sounds like Gabriel (IMO) on several songs. All the songs are unpretentious lyrically, dealing with real issues (both topical events and more personal concerns).
Here we go ...
The Bells, The BELLS! [7/10]
Well, this one certainly wakes you up! This short instrumental track acts as a scene-setter, rather than being a song in its own right. I suppose it could be viewed as a sort of Woolly overture.
Blood & Bones [10/10]
Stunning. Just stunning. Arguably, Woolly's major artistic statement of his career. The "Seems to me there's more to this than meets the eye" section is awe-inspiring in its powerful intensity. Those loud Mellotron chords are to die for! Woolly's vocals are great too. This song reminds me a lot of Peter Gabriel - particularly his 'Up' album. The achingly melodic 'Requiem' section is quite lovely. I like the way the song has contrasting sections - one moment gentle and restrained, the next totally full-on.
A Waiting Game [9/10]
This track opens with gentle acoustic guitars and has a nice Autumnal feel to it. This song has such a peaceful, mellow vibe. I'm sure just about everyone can identify with the lyrics! I think the incorporation of the 'First Noel' extract is a nice touch - beautifully realised.
It's U [9/10]
Woolly goes pop! A huge contrast from the previous track. A bouncy, jangly '60s pop song, in which Steve Broomhead shines on both acoustic and electric guitar. I like the way the song has been mixed, and the way certain instruments have been isolated in the stereo mix. It sounds really great listened to on headphones.
Appropriately atmospheric ethnic beginning. You can almost smell the camels! :o) A totally wonderful electric guitar riff from Steve kicks the song into life, closely followed by Woolly's authentic Moroccan-sounding keyboard. This track also reminds me so much of Peter Gabriel - particularly Woolly's vocals on the high parts. How Woolly managed to reach those high notes is quite remarkable! The musicians really smoke on this song!
One Drop In A Dry World [8.5/10]
Craig Fletcher (Reg. THESP) adds suitable sound effects at the start. This song could be described as a bit of an epic. The beautiful (yet unsettling) strings sound that Woolly manages to achieve sends shivers down my spine. Steve Broomhead contributes some blistering lead guitar. Personally, I find the song a bit overwrought in places, but it has some lovely moments (particularly the strings).
I love the unusual percussive opening to this track. Once the song kicks into life you get summery, bouncy pop (quite similar to 'It's U', in fact). It then changes to a cod--reggae section. This continues the 'great' tradition of songs in which white singers attempt to sound Jamaican (Harry Nilsson's 'Coconut', Elton John's 'Jamaica Jerk-Off', 10cc's 'Dreadlock Holiday', etc). The fact that the song is an attack on naff, culturally-insensitive 'Brits-abroad' culture allows Woolly to get away with it (just).
The End Of The Road [8/10]
The enigmatic lyrics of this unassuming track give few clues as to what this song is really about. It has the sort of lyrics that could allow a myriad of different interpretations.
Opens with appropriate sound effects. I like the sound of the acoustic guitars on this song. A companion song to 'Sail Away' and 'Quiet Islands'?
Another amazing song, revealing new depths to Woolly's character and talents. Craig Fletcher's woozy bass deserves particular mention, as do Woolly's bitter-sweet strings. This feels like a glimpse into Woolly's private life. The emotions in this haunting song are raw and totally real.
The Starving People Of The World All Thank You For Their Time [7/10]
The lyrics are the title (repeated endlessly). An unusual track (to say the least).
Starts beautifully gentle, with Woolly laying down some haunting keyboard sounds. The intensity then increases and increases, until the track gets very heavy indeed. The biting lyrics clearly concern someone who has let Woolly down, and he still feels bitter about it.
OVERALL RATING:- 9.5/10
There is a new power and intensity to Woolly on this album. The gentle, pastoral sound of songs like 'Waveform' is largely absent. The focus is instead on songs similar in intent to 'American Excess' - i.e. Woolly expressing (and possibly exorcising) sometimes painful emotions. He also pushes his voice further than it has ever gone before, and undoubtedly pulls it off. A stunning achievement.
So, what do I think? The first 4 tracks (5 if you include "The Bells, THE BELLS!") are great - I couldn't choose between them. The rest of the album was so different I'll have to give it a good listening to before I can give a verdict - certainly potential, but ...
The bonus disk has gems - particularly "Camelherd".
And now I'm going to upset people. I came away from this and running through my mind was:
Daaaaaaah da de da da daaaah da de da da daaaaah da de da da Daaaaaah da de da da daaaaah - there's something in the air, a feeling of uncertainty .........
Please Woolly & Les, find a way - apart you're great, but together ............
PS: First impressions, I prefer Revolution Days
First of all I really must say what an excellent job has been done production wise,a well recorded and mixed album makes the listening experience far more pleasurable. All of the instruments are well defined, there's plenty of separation, imaging and rhythm, but it's not over produced and in your face. It gives the band a sound you can identify with and is consistent throughout the album. It's better to get something down quickly while it's fresh and real, rather than deliberate over many months and ruin the whole atmosphere of the work.
Is this a Woolly solo album? or is it Woolly's new band?. I go for the latter, because without the input from the other members I don't feel the album would have retained the fluency which runs throughout. It would be interesting to know if it would have taken a different slant if Kim Turner had been on the kit, nothing wrong at all with Kev's drumming, but Kim does have a very distinctive style and really hammers those skins.
What can I say about the album itself?......12 tracks of individual strength and quality, I kept waiting for the filler, but there wasn't one, waiting for the single to appear, again their isn't one. As Woolly said, it isn't easy listening,but for someone who has been looking for something different and individual, 'One Drop' hits the spot, like a cold beer on a hot dusty day. It's not an album you can get tired of easily and I feel will stand the test of time, as has Maestoso.
Favourite tracks, Blood and Bones, Explorers and Souk, is that because I'm already familiar with them?, I don't know, but if a well known band had recorded them, the music press would be going ga ga.
The 2 tracks which surprised me were It's U and ANSS, dare I say not typically Woolly, quite daring for him, but they both work really well.
It would be unfair to give it a star rating as it would get ***** from me every time, but I'll play it to a couple of mates who's opinions I respect and see how it goes down with the neutral.
Was it worth the wait, you bet it was.
Rob Price, the proud owner of 018/200
Listened to it all through a couple of times and as Ralph has said it is everything that we could have wished for and more !!! No it certainly isn't a BJH album, but neither do I think it was meant to be. But the links are clear and obvious. Here you can really see what genius was lost after XII. Just like his set on Wednesday...there is humour, power, subtlety and beauty...not to mention some damn fine musicianship all wrapped into one album. So am I a partisan Woolly fan?...well yes and no. I certainly appreciate the fact that Woolly has still retained his humour and his appreciation of his fan base. This was made so clear on Wednesday night...no airs and graces. Just a down to earth honest and talented musician....who cares ! But my musical tastes are so eclectic I can also appreciate the music that Les has produced. True I find it very safe and over produced...but at the right moment it can be just as entertaining. So I have no axe to grind with any member of BJH musically. They all have their own little niche to fill...each should be appreciated in their own right for what they are. One thing that is apparent to me though from this album is that if you loved the early BJH output you will certainly find fertile ground to plough listening to Woolly's new CD. The distinctive orchestral sound is there ..along with the mellotron. But with that comes some excellent playing by all members of the band...in particular Steve Broomheads guitar work. I heartily commend the album :-) Enjoy the music...and let's hope for more !
I'm just listening to One Drop now and my first thought are - great production - I have to admit to having been a little worried by the samples on the website and imagined a Nexus style "cardboard box" style sound. The technology has obviously been conquered and the sound is great.
The first words uttered of "Here we go" seem like a message from Woolly - he's back, but this time not under John's wing - having recovered the will to fly!
The keyboard sounds are great - not many musicians of Woolly's era don't sound this relevant in terms of sound choice and tone. Seems like Colin Hesketh has something to do with this - so nice one Colin.
Blood and Bones initially makes me think that its going to be gentle back to Maestoso sound, but when the band kicks in you get the rage of Woolly's thoughts on life which have been stifled for too long. THe band play particularly well on this one, which I imagine would simply rock live..
A Waiting Game - beautiful keyboard sounds - he's back and better than ever it seems! Tight lyrics and catchy melody - relevant and powerful. ITs got the classic Woolly melancholy there too. Fabulous guitar solo from Steve Broomhead too - masterful use of volume pedal. I had worried about The First Noel, but it fits fine.
Its U - a great song - catchy and a nice live feel to the recording. Woolly's voice sounding in very good condition. Nice to hear the band really playing tightly and sharp.
Souk - great track - so different and uniquely Woolly but with a new sound. This is a track that screams out "BJH couldn't have played this" - can you imagine Woolly presenting this to the band for inclusion on XII - I'm not decrying the more mainstream of the band, but its nice to hear a musical risk coming off so well. Also I must say that Woolly's voice is still in magical nick - achieving high notes effortlessly - I think that high note is almost as high as the highest note in Moongirl.
One drop in a dry world - initial thoughts are that its a little more traditional Woolly than Souk - enjoy the sound effects - reminds me of Suicide when the music comes in, almost like the rush of falling from the club balcony - perhaps this was intentional? Fabulous keyboard sound again - mournful song - almost reminds me of Sea of Tranquility in its structure and pace.
ANSS - nice production, arrangement and bass playing are my first thoughts. Woolly's wit in high profile on this one. In a right and just world this should be a summer hit - the cod reggae era has only just begun!!
The End of the Road - classic Woolly ballad - could have comfortably sat on any of the Harvest era albums. I can imagine Mel drumming nicely on this one.
Explorers - nice 12 string sound on this one - strong vibrant sound and strong production. Great lyrics on this song. Could have fitted on Maestoso I reckon. Lovely bass solo. Reminds me of Harbour.
2am - a good example of Woolly taking a melody where you don't expect it to go - nice chord sequence, with a dark melodic background. The fretless bass works really well. Very sad lyrics - Woolly in a bleaker moment I guess. Nice to see the first political comment in BJH related song since The Closed Shop.
Starving People - lovely drum sound - biting track with an addictively loping rhythmn.
Carpet - fabulous - I just love the sound of this and can't get it loud enough (my next door neighbour is a nurse who works night shifts and this would wake her up!) Nice biting vicious singing by Woolly. The lyrics obviously relate to Woolly's BJH connection. For political reasons I wont try to interpret - as it would be pure speculation. This would rock live. Fabulous band sound. This is how BJH could have sounded had Woolly stayed and the commercial sound had been rejected in favour of more Prog. Fabulous ending to a great great comeback album....
More than we could have asked for really. He's in great voice, has obviously not lost any musical gift, in fact sounds like he's gained. The most amazing thing is the bite and ferocity of Woolly's return - he's back with a vengeance this album suggests to me.
So - the Second Splash
Its U - The over 60s mix - I actually prefer this mix to the main one. Nice pop song. I could imagine Ron Sexsmith singing this. Nice 60s style drumming and drum sound.
Flip - nice guitar sound - sounds like the introduction to something. Good showcase for Steve's guitar playing. The moment at 2.00mins is superb - a pause which reminds me of the track "The Tower" by Steve Hackett - I'm now really reminded of that track. Great powerful riff.
The Wind in the Willows - lovely pastoral music. Elegiac piano over a really subtle keyboard backing - achingly sad and nostalgic. Gentle and kind - and quite wonderful. Makes me think of riverside walks alongside the River Derwent - dragonflies swooping over the river and the occasional kingfisher darting for fish. Superb, absolutely brilliant.
Starving People - a nice alternate version - short and punchy.
Requiem - echoes of Sunday bells - lovely keyboard sound, the Wolstenholme choir in the background - what more could we ask? Its got the Woolly sound in bucketfuls..
Its U - nice to hear this demo - very 80s sounding, but still retaining the Woollen feel. I like the old drum machine sound - reminds me of Anthony Phillips "Invisible Men" album.
A Waiting Game (Craig Fletcher vocal) - very interesting to hear this for two reasons - proof Craig has a nice voice, and also proof that the Woolly sound comes through no matter who sings!
The Angelus - more lovely Woolly keyboards. Gentle and contemplative. Beautiful chord sequence.
Camelherd - weird piece of studio japery!?
Overall, the album I was hoping for and more. He's back, and with a better album that any of us BJH fans have heard in ages IMO. I dearly wish I'd been at the gig - but this almost compensates. I feel rejuvenated now I've been Woollied - Wool is very comforting indeed!
I've had One Drop In A Dry World on constant rotation for some time now, and it says a lot about it that familiarity has yet to breed anything other than sheer pleasure at discovering yet more marvellous nuances in this superb, multi-faceted album.
Let's get one thing out of the way immediately: it's not Barclay James Harvest. It's not even Mæstoso volume 2. It's much more than either of those things. Sure, there's Woolly's inimitable Mellotron sound, his voice, the drama and the passion which we've come to expect. But there's also driving rock, eastern promise, cod reggae, country and more. This album is the sound of a man who spent twenty years in the wilderness and who has also had more than his share of problems in recent times finally letting it all out in an outburst of creativity. Emotionally raw in places, but leavened with a generous helping of erudite wit and humanity, the songs will touch many a nerve. It's a timeless album, whilst being utterly relevant to today's world.
The album is credited to the band Mæstoso rather than being presented as a Woolly solo album, and that's not down to false modesty. Woolly enjoys playing in a real band, where the players spark creative ideas off each other in the studio, and that's evident here not just from the inclusion of "Souk", co-written with guitarist Steve Broomhead, but in the myriad ways that the band members (Craig Fletcher and Kevin Whitehead being the other musicians) are so obviously involved and having fun - not a concept frequently associated with recent BJH output.
Comparisons are often invidious but always inevitable, so here goes: some songs call to mind the better moments of Nexus, but the recording and mix are much clearer, whilst still retaining a "live" feel - the performances are spontaneous and occasionally imperfect, but always from the heart. Elsewhere there's the occasional nod to pre-1979 Barclay James Harvest, but not so much as you might expect. It's a million miles away from Revolution Days, but then you knew that already. Other influences? Mahler (naturally), Richard Strauss, the wilder shores of Procol Harum and, of course, Spinal Tap.
I haven't enjoyed any album this much in years. Don't just listen to it - let it into your life and enter Woolly's world. It's weird. And it's wonderful.