Ex Norwegian & Friends Sing Jimmy Campbell (Beyond Before Records, LP/CD/MP 3)
Compliments, like revenge, are sometimes best served cold.
Jimmy Campbell is no longer here to receive his, having died in 2007 at the age of sixty-three. He left behind four exquisitely accomplished albums, and nine singles under various guises, but his true masterpiece is his haunting 45 "Michaelangelo" which he released in 1967 as The 23rd Turnoff. A thing of mystery and great charm it is a perfectly haunting period piece. Songs from his eloquent catalogue of poppy melancholia have been given a kindly backwards glance by Ex Norwegian who've got their friends in on fourteen wonderful acts of artistic affection. Campbell was a reluctant live performer but his records betray a talented intelligence. A craftsman of rare abilities, his songs stand well for these acts of deserved reanimation. To the few who know his work they will come as no surprise, but to those who've never encountered his efforts, a journey of reward will follow in the wake of listening to his re-interpretation.
Things kick off with a true glam stomp like The Lemon Twigs in all their retro excess. "Yes It Is" features Joe Kane above searing harmonies that sound like Queen in cahoots with Mott The Hoople. A perfect opener. Shimmering and slinky, and just a little bit kinky with perhaps a touch of the Raspberries, the lyric betrays a timeless honesty of observation.
"I can say so cause I found it to be true
It's best to be off with your old love
Before you're on with the new"
"Forever Grateful" with Coke Belda is like Stealer's Wheel and The Strawbs with touches of Al Stewart via some sublime guitar licks reminiscent of a seventies sunny afternoon . A corkingly jolly affair that blends nicely with an equally joyous but more psychedelic edge which evokes a mellow Kinks or The Who in a rare pastoral vibe. A West Coast breath of Englishness.
"Fate is neither here or there
And Love is but a poor excuse"
"Stayed Out Late Last Night" swaggers with a provocative sass. The Beach Boys in a punky vibe thanks to The Elms Estate. A power-pop masterpiece full of deft touches suggestive of The Left Banke, and one which is over all too soon.
"Don't You Ever Think I Cry" possesses a lighter swaying piece of stadium angst with Lynyrd Skynyrd guitars to boot and Jim Camacho in fine lung form. A take that cooks up a quiet storm in an epic of restrained proportions via an emotively tasteful vocal.
"Half Baked" delivers a louche psyche vibe. Beautiful and chamber drenched, it is piece of flamboyant disregard that slips easily into a Canned Heat blues boogie and a Blood Sweat And Tears heaviness before Rhys Marsh steers it back to a reflective haziness. If variety is the spice of life it resides in this assured collision of styles. With a staggeringly clever string arrangement as a parting mini symphony at the end it is a deftly realised accomplishment.
As though Gilbert O'Sullivan had upped his intake of uppers, a Beatles-esque verve presides in John Ford and his slightly poppy McCartney "Missing Kissing You" -- a small pop gem that bounces by with a happy heart, breezing simply along like early Rod Stewart and The Faces with all its laconic optimism.
"You Break My Heart In Two" cloaks Edward Rogers in a Stranglers-like psych-vibe, but with a later Bowie ache to the vocal. An essentially glam anthem with a touch of swirling vitality suggestive of flowing scarves around the wrist. A silver-lined dream.
"You're Spending All My Money" has Mark Johnston in a spiritual tryst with the late Brett Smiley but with "The White Album"-era John Lennon in its heaviness of heart. All breathless and deliciously fey with licks a plenty to impress with elements of T.Rex it grinds along with tremendous aplomb and an implicit confidence of stride.
DC Cardwell delivers "That's Right That's Me" around an early seventies Cockney Rebel flippancy, a stomping beat that drives the vocal forth like a thundering wave over walloping drums. All that glitters must be gold.
A breath of world weary elegance arrives in the form of John Howard's smouldering but masterful ownership of the ballad "Baby Walk Out With Your Darling Man," a confidently restrained slice of comforting pop. A cry in whatever drink you happen to be holding at the time of sadness, this perfectly realised this little watercolour of wistful nostalgia wanders into the mind to find a place to stay. As restrained a piece of pop whimsy with as sharp an edge as one could hope for, it is both glorious and gorgeous.
"Baby walk out with your darling man
And hold the lovely day
In the palm of your hand
You had lovely yellow hair
But now its turned to gold.
So baby walk out with your darling man"
"Flowers Are Flowering" features Cherry Parke in a garagey mood echoing early Who in cahoots with the late Roky Erikson -- a psych mash-up of swirling lights and incense smoke. Randy California's Spirit as a combined force with The Only Ones though the song remains uniquely its own masterful creation.
Rome56 make "Paris You're In Paris" into a perfectly casual pop moment. A sixties throwaway vibe pinned out as a sheer delight. Echoes of Carnaby Street, mini skirts and love beads. A happy note from a more innocent time.
"When I Cross Your Path" is Esteban Cisnero swaggering in a far from angelic conversation with a punk pop psych-edge of simmering restraint and is an enthusiastic little diamond of a song that hits the heart and soothes the soul with an immediacy in its gait.
There's a very London postcard of personal observations set to music in the signing off of "Loving You Is All I Do." A lurching confidence oozes through Kevin Robertson's lovely hazy, lazy vocal above the plucked strings oozes through every pore of this slightly power-pop garage song delivered with a petulance awash with subtle strings. The ghost of Syd Barrett reigns within this wonderful piece English whimsy.
"Silently the dark blue clouds
Go drifting, always chasing
and they don't give me time
To find your face.
Eventually you'll go I know
To someone else's table
Wearing sword-white gloves
On snow-white hands."
Jimmy Campbell deserves to be better respected and more widely known. He was man who had a neat turn of phase and an ear for a perfect melody to set those words within. What Ex Norwegian have accomplished in this assemblage with their friends, is the realisation of a huge labour of love, and an act of devotion and respect for a talent that was never quite granted that recognition in his day. They have created the perfect key to unleash the interest of the curious. A pilgrim-like journey to appreciate the talent of a largely forgotten entity. It is a humbling enterprise and a telling tale of the vagaries of fate, and that talent may not get you recognised, but in the long run, in the right hands, it may get the efforts that you left behind, lovingly remembered.
Thanx for the kind words sir!
It was a labor of luv