Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ben Brookes - The Motor Car & The Weather Balloon (2017)

Written by Jason Hillenburg, posted by blog admin

This is an album packed with some real heavy hitters. Young singer/songwriter Ben Brookes has recruited some of the most respected musicians and sidemen in rock’s long history with former Bob Dylan keyboardist Greg Inhofer, one time Prince drummer Michael Bland, and Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland. They’ve contributed much to the realization of Ben Brookes’ The Motor Car & The Weather Balloon but, ultimately, Brookes’ exceptional vocals and songwriting are the primary culprits behind the excellence of this ten song collection. This Portsmouth, UK native began writing and performing his own songs at the age of eleven and each of the ten cuts included on The Motor Car & The Weather Balloon testify to the obvious commitment he’s made towards honing his chosen craft, as well as the influences fueling its creation. There are obvious nods to both The Beatles and Pink Floyd but, in the end, Brookes’ collection stands on its own and never risks imitation.

“I Wanna Go Home” opens the album on a distinctly creative note. There’s a jangling quality that Brookes and his collaborators bring to bear during an assortment of passages while other sections are much more reliant on firm drumming and flourishes of fiery guitar. The organ thrown into the mix adds further color without ever sounding out of place and Brookes’ vocals achieve a great balance between a storytelling stance and a more emphatic, straight ahead rock style. The second track “Integration (Not Segregation)” is a particularly memorable number for how it brings together Brookes’ melodic gifts with a near symphonic grandeur, but there’s more. Brookes frequently makes use of ambient sound effects and even intersperses spoken word passages from various sources, including former American President John F. Kennedy. Acoustic guitar and some light keyboard contributions power the opening of “Asleep in Galilee” and the drumming takes it off into a stately march with just the right amount of propulsive force. The addition of some slide guitar in the song continues a recurring trend towards a gritty, rootsy sound on the release.

The mid-tempo acoustic jangle of “Before Sunlight” is punctuated by some tasteful reverb-laden electric guitar fills laid over top. Brookes’ voice has a slightly nasal quality to it that gives the memorable vocal melody further flavor than it might otherwise possess and its gently loping quality is particularly effective with this musical arrangement. “Stories in the Rain” cops a similar musical feel, but it’s much more emphatic and certainly sports a clear Beatles influence running through it. The steady march pace he adopts for the song provides for a number of hard hitting mini-climaxes. There’s a near waltz quality to the song “Siren” and the emotive wail in Brookes’ voice plays exceptionally well over this tempo. It has an airy, strum-driven arrangement and the space in the performance allows the song to breathe without restriction. The penultimate track on The Motor Car & The Weather Balloon, “Somewhere Around Eight”, is one of the finest slow build tracks on the release and shows how sharp his instincts are for ramping up the musical intensity. The electric and acoustic guitar lines paired up with this track complement each other extraordinarily well and lend its dramatic a little extra muscle. Ben Brookes closes the album with “Shackles” and it’s a track where he forsakes any significant electric guitar bite in favor of a quasi-orchestral pop ending putting forward his influences a final time while retaining the same well defined identity defining much of the release. The Motor Car & The Weather Balloon recalls a time when artists aimed higher than the marketplace with their musical works and, instead, eyed posterity as the thing they truly wanted to impress. There’s little question that these ten songs are fine enough to exert real staying power to hold up under repeated listening. There’s no question that Ben Brookes has his career off to a magnificent start with this album.

No comments:

Post a Comment