John Howard - As I Was Saying

Reviewed by Sheridan Quaint on 08/12/2005

Ellipsis In Shades Of Blue - A Review of John Howard's "As I Was Saying"

Certain words stay on hold for a while, just waiting to be uttered. But sometimes, it takes a little longer. In the case of John Howard, it took precisely thirty years. This month, the artiste comes back with the pertinently-emtitled "As I Was Saying", an album entirely written by himself, and the very first one since the 1970s to be recorded with a full band. Indeed, John Howard collaborated with Andre Barreau (The Bootleg Beatles), on guitar and percussions, and Phil King (formerly of Lush) on Bass guitar.

Accomplished and incredibly personal, "As I Was Saying" has something of a vignette collection, with its scenes of life beatifully entwined. John Howard looks back on his past with intelligence and a great tenderness, alternately tinged with humour, as in the Coward-esque 'Life Is Never The Way We Want It To Be', or melancholia, as in 'A Kind Of Aching'.

Throughout the album floats the memory of the songwriter's mother, beloved and absent, to whom it is dedicated. A way, for her son, to allow her to "live forever". This sense of loss is palpable here, especially on "Lonely Again (Brenda's Song)", which is a pure cry of sorrow. Rarely indeed has regretful love been expressed with such decency and sincerity (or else it was long ago). There, the idea of Art and creation as a form of therapy takes all its meaning: the record is the response to its author's need. The relationship with his father, himself a pianist, and with religion, is broached on the track 'Magic Of The Mystery', which begins with a graceful version of the the song 'Away In A Manger', featuring young John Howard, then aged four, on vocals, and his father Bert Jones on piano.

Another great issue in "As I Was Saying" is the passing of time. One day, a man wakes up and suddenly realizes fifty years of his life have gone. Quite understandably, he then takes stock of all these moments gone beyond retrieval, but still so clear in his memory. From these balanced interrogations sprang poignant songs in sepia tones : 'These Fifty Years' and 'Time Of Day'.

It is moreover quite obvious that the three musicians thoroughly enjoyed working together. The chemistry is right, and it endows the LP with a particular sparkle, an additional charm of its own, breathtakingly clear oin the accoustic arrangement of 'Sanctuary Sojourn' or in the new version of the Glam hymn 'Dear Glitterheart', written in collaboration with poet Robert Cochrane, and part of John Howard's previous album "The Dangerous Hours".

Thirty years on, the words sound just as brilliant as they ever did, now with a remarquable sense of wisdom about them. The 'Kid' seems to be back to stay, as the song goes, and we are definitely hanging on his lips.

Sheridan Quaint, December 2005

Comments On This Review
On 14/12/2005 08:14 Alan Sharif said:
What a brilliant review. 

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