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Keeping to the same formula as my past few music reviews this one might as well follow suit, despite it's much more obscure artist (compared with Katie Melua, The Streets and Arctic Monkeys, it's not really anything against Mr Baxter himself).
After seeing Tom Baxter on www.myspace.com I actually wrote little blurb for my own private site about the young man:
"The unsigned Londoner claims to sound like "Tom Baxter", so at least he's honest, he fails to mention he also sounds a bit like Elbow, with a dreamy sound of an apocolyptic future wearing down on his mind. A guy who has been compared to two artists I'm fans of (comparasions by The Evening Standard to Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake). After his first album, released in 2005 ("Feather and Stone), his follow up, has just recently been released on iTunes, "SKYBOUND". Check it out now, it's well worth a very good listen."
However I'd never actually seen this album released until very recently, when I picked it up in Avalanche records in Glasgow (brilliant indie CD shop) as part of a 3 for £10 on second hand CD's deal. Like I of all people, was gonna turn that down, so I picked that (and "Lemonade" by G Love and the eponymous album by Aqualung).
Who is Tom Baxter?
I admit my blurb isn't really detailed, but Tom is a singer-songwriter from London, the son of musical parents from the south of England.
What sort of music does Tom Baxter produce?
Baxters music has a very sad and somewhat lonely sound, which is heavily given away by the simple backing music he has which often only features one or two musical layers. His voice has a very eery reminiscence of early Jeff Buckley solo works (Live at Sin-e' era), and seems to be almost as perfect at picking a note as Buckley's was in his heyday.
What is "Feather and Stone"?
"Feather and Stone" was the 2004 (yes my blurb was wrong even after Tom himself said it was right...) debut album by Tom Baxter, released on Sony records. It was re-released a few months later with added album details but sadly no extra songs (yes sadly). The album did achieve some interntional acclaim, mainly from the journaslists as opposed to commercial acclaim. It also spawned 2 singles "This Boy" and "My Declaration"
What might we recognise from Feather and Stone?
To be honest, it's unlikely you'll recognise any of the tracks, despite the two singles getting some radio back on national radio (BBC2) when the album was released.
Anything else we should know?
Apart from the recent release of "SKYBOUND"? Well this album has one of the best inlay's I've seen in recent memory, that counts.
No, the credits are due for others as well as Tom.
The photography was done by Hamish Brown, Ben Williams, Catherine Monfils, Thomas Peter and Chris Lopez.
Vocals and Guitar-Tom Baxter
Now onto the real review I guess, The album opens with the hauntingly beautiful "My Declaration" with the lyrics printed in the wonderful inlay booklet as though their up a road towards the sunset (buy the disk and you'll understand). The music does have a very Elbow (the band) feel to it with wonderful and beautiful vocals, a simply under-stated musical backing and a lyrically awesome story of how the singer proclaims his "Declaration". When the music picks up for the bridge you begin to see how the relation to Buckley occurs. The song gets you easily into the album, whilst the chorus drags your deeply inside the world of Tom Baxter. 9/10
This is followed by the phenomonal "This Boy", which is one of the many AAA titles on the album and one of my favourite 3 tracks on it. The song is slightly more up tempo than the previous track and the strings sounds wonderfully glorious, as does Baxter vocal performance, which is remeniscent of Chris Cornell. The song's lyrics have a happy go lucky feel to them and tell a story of how things can change when people do things they shouldn't. A catchy and loveable song with a wonderful hook. Brilliant. 11/10
"Under the Thumb" follows in a similar vain as Tom keeps putting out classic after classic, with this track, which is another of my favourite 3. Another song which is remiscent of Buckley and kind of what you could imagine him doing for "My Sweetheart the Drunk" if he'd completed it. The catchy and easy to remember chorus, the open and yet sad theme of the song plays weirdly with Baxters voice comeing over someone what happy sounding music and tempo which makes the song even better imo. 11/10
"The Girl From the Hills" comes in with again a Buckley sounding to it (the opening guitar is almost identical to Buckley's cover of "j ne connais pas le fin") and oddly thats not the final reference a heavy Buckley fan may see. The song is very Buckley-esque with and so if you like the "Grace" album you will love this song. The lyrics are so full of imagery, and the sound so rich of strong solid vocals, an enlightening musical feeling and just makes a wonderful track. 9/10
"The moon & me" another Buckley esque song (not a complaint at all), the guitar sounds sound stronger than in some previous track and give a somewhat Nick Drake sound to the song in places (again not a bad thing). A track where Baxters voices impresses and ultimately shows why Sony did sign him up, although the song does seem like a wee bit of a let down compared to the previous tracks, thats due to their very very high standard rather than this being a poor track. 8/10
"A day in Verona", This is the lowest point in the album for me, but as I've already said, that doesn't seem fair as the standard is so high. A soft almost delicate sounding intro to the song which just seems to go on 5 seconds to long. The song does have a little bit of a reference to "Romeo and Juliet", but nothing that would drown those that hate Shakespeare. A song that is very lovey dovey, but sadly seems to be too slow and ultimately this makes the song seem like it goes on a bit too long. Though don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song at all. 81/0
The final of my favourite 3 tracks is "All Comes True", this was the first track when i heard the album after a long day of coming back from Glasgow to the Lake District, that actually grabbed me. The happy up tempo music, the lyrics, the vocals, the hook everything about it just had me from the first listen and it still has me, despite being on repeat all day. A song that just fits together as if it was made by a master craftsman and musician all rolled into one and your wondering why such quality is hidden in albums that are so damned hard to find. 11/10
"Almost there", again the inlay is delightfully in the way it has the lyrics, which for this song are written almost like a letter. A song that seems to have taken a lost cause style attitutde, and perhaps reflects the some what Drake-onian (Nick Drake...) lyrics that have so far seemingly goneun-mentioned as I've been raving about the music and vocals. The defeatists sound gives the song a really soft edge, and can seem off putting the first few times you hear it but you quickly warm to the track after a few listen throughs as you come to expect the rocky almost perfect ending of the track. 8/10
"Don't let go", the booklet lyrics for this are...well...perculiar (buy the album, find out :-P). A string-centric sounding peice, with what seems like a harp being the main backing (I'm probably wrong though), the vocals take a very Elbow feel of post apocolyptic sorrow. A song that wouldn't feel out of place on "Leaders of the freeworld" (Elbow album), which is again a compliment as to just how good this guy is, going from Drake-like in one song to Elbow, and doing a what's what of Buckley impressions before it. Thr vocals and musical backing fit together wonderfully in a dark meaningful way. A shear wonder of a song. 10/10
Fincally "Scorpio boy" finishes off the album (and one of the best bits of business I've ever been a part of). A song that does seem a bit fitting to end the album in a way, with the soft, late Autumn/Early winter idea of a Scorpio being the death of most plants after it's flowers have rippened and shown how beautiful it is. The song is another slower one and you can see the pictures Baxter paints with every word due to the slow tempo. The good message painted through the hook are worked really well into the song and help finish the album on a high way up there. 9/10
The casing, is a complex (but bleeding delicate) card board fold out, with a sleeve on each side one of which contains the booklet which has lyrics, the other has a seperate sleeve for the CD cover. Overall the packaging is incredibly nice and rather pretty.
Some of the references to Jeff Buckley (or am I looking to hard):
"The Girl from the Hills"
The opening is the same as Buckleys's "je nais connais pas le fin"
The word "Refrain" is delivered in an almost identical fashion to Buckley in "J ne connais pas le fin"
"Pretty City Dress"... reference of So real "And the fabric of simple city Dress"
"The moon & me"
The gull like guitar sounds are very "Grace" like, which also mentions the moon.
My own website can be found at: http://www.freewebs.com/iamasadlittleboysays/watchoutfor.htm
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 My Declaration
2 This Boy
3 Under The Thumb
4 Girl From The Hills
5 The Moon And Me
6 A Day In Verona
7 All Comes True
8 Almost There
9 Don't Let Go
10 Scorpio Boy