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Stephen Fretwell is an English singer-songwriter from sunny Scunthorpe. Well known for his mop of ginger hair, Fretwell released his début album 'Magpie' in 2004 and then this second in 2007 through Fiction Records. 'Man On The Roof' comprises of fourteen tracks and clocks in at a total of 46 minutes in length. I did not hear his début album so was not greatly aware of the man when this second album was released, but nonetheless decided to give it a go and am really quite glad that I did.
The album was recorded in New York, his music consisting of many layers and terrific depth. The music is melancholy and masterful in its approach. Fretwell shows a great deal of maturity in this release, his songs are extremely well crafted and his lyrics are always intelligently written. It sounds like this is much more than just the man's second album, a lot of the time it does in fact sound like he was been producing this sound for years due to the eloquence and excellence with which he progresses the album and puts across his exceptional talent. Many hold Coldplay's Chris Martin on a pedestal for his lyric writing, and yet if anything I feel that Stephen Fretwell is better than he. Much better in fact, and this goes some way in explaining why the man has been compared to the likes of Damien Rice and even Leonard Cohen.
What I love about Stephen Fretwell is that he is a young man who is clearly full of great ideas. His music shows just how much creativity he possesses and the way in which he wishes to stretch himself and make the most of his talent. He is enthusiastic and ambitious, two traits that make him greatly effective as a singer-songwriter. 'Coney' opens the album with a great degree of excellence and from here on in never does the album show any signs of weakness. The track 'Dead' is particularly impressive on this release and is perhaps my favourite of all those that are here. There is a great strength to the track and all elements of the music come together perfectly. It is music such as this that is superbly soothing to listen to, a perfect anthem for a long journey on the road.
'William Shatner's Dog' ends the album satisfyingly, sadly however it was not the Captain Kirk worshipping music I had been hoping for. In truth the title has little reference to the track whatsoever and does in fact seem to be somewhat chosen at random. Nonetheless, this is an excellent way in which for Stephen Fretwell to end the album and is in fact an extremely effective way of doing so. My only complaint with ending the album with this one is that it is 5 minutes in length, the longest on the album and I have great difficulties in holding my interest for anything over three minutes with music. I have a short attention span and although I do enjoy this one, I do tend to become a little bored of it by the time it comes to its close. There are few other tracks on the album where this is the case, but sometimes the music just doesn't hold quite enough intrigue and excitement to hold you for a stretch of four minutes plus.
Although only on his second album, Stephen Fretwell seems to be showing some great signs of maturity already and could well go on to become an extremely prolific and world renowned singer-songwriter. He seems to have the talent to do so certainly, but I definitely believe that some of the tracks here need winding down a little. Needlessly long in parts, I do have a tendency to drift off a little when listening to this album but then again there are many tracks here that are greatly impressive. There are times when he sounds like he has been recording albums for years, and yet there are others when he seems completely inexperienced. When Stephen Fretwell next records an album I shall be expecting great things from him, as it stands however there are certainly a few signs of weakness in his music and a few cracks that need smoothing over. Stephen Fretwell has the potential to be great, but currently his music is merely 'good'. Shows signs of great potential, but only if he really applies himself will Stephen Fretwell ever release a truly exceptional album.
Label: Fiction Records
Release Date: 10th September 2007
Originally posted by me on my website Alt-UK.com
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Darlin' Don't
5 Funny Hat
6 Bumper Cars
8 The Scheme
11 The Ground Beneath Your Feet
13 San Francisco Blues
14 William Shatner's Dog