By Paul Faithfull
September 13, 2013
When it comes to solo albums and side projects, bass players are under-represented (before you all moan, I’m not counting Paul McCartney as a bass player here, and in fairness I’ve not got the word count for that debate). Whilst the most obvious candidate from a band to hit out on their own is the lead singer, there have been a fair few guitarists, keys players and even drummers who’ve decided to strike out on their own. Attempting to redress that balance here is perennial side-man Charlie Jones with his debut platter Love Form. Jones’s CV includes work with Goldfrapp, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, whilst his co-writing on Plant’s acclaimed collaboration with Alison Krauss earned him a Grammy award.
This ten track album is full of long and brooding tracks, largely recorded live without overdubs to give the pieces an immediate feel, whilst the absence of any kind of digital manipulation harks back to a simpler and almost more honest period of album production.
Opening track ‘Silver’ has an atmosphere which reminds of a ’60s film noir soundtrack, both a little quirky and a little dark at the same time. This sort of track greatly benefits from its extended length, as it’s allowed to grow and breathe organically without the need to be radio-friendly. ‘Silver’ borrows greatly from minimalism, where the gradual changes which occur throughout the track’s duration make it feel like nothing is really happening on the surface, yet as the music and texture shifts throughout it creates an almost hypnotic sensation.
Highlight of the album ‘Death Hand’ has an altogether darker feel than anything else on the album. The combination of strings, organ and feedback-drenched guitar give the track a real sense of menace, whilst Jones’s composition here seems very self-assured and confident.
‘Reconstruction’ begins with a jazz inspired polyrhythm, before a vintage Hammond organ takes on the melody. Despite an obvious jazz influence, and the undoubted talent of all of the musicians on show here, the track is a vehicle for tasteful exploration of Jones’s ideas, rather than virtuosic excess.
It is hard not to draw comparisons between the work of Charlie Jones on this album with the man he ‘replaced’ in 1994’s quasi-Led Zeppelin reunion. John Paul Jones’s instrumental offering ‘Zooma’ worked on a similarly cerebral level to this collection, but with a little more in the way of melody and a lot more showing off.
It is true to say that this album is devoid of hummable tunes, and even the whistled contribution of Alison Goldfrapp will not live long in the memory on first listen. What this album has in spades however is the air of a composer and performer who is recording the music that he wants to make, without the need to get it on the radio and into the charts. The absence of big choruses and virtuosic solos will put some off, but those who dip a toe in will be mesmerised by the atmospheric textures spun throughout.