Few British artists are able to match the transformation Ian Brown has undergone during his career as a solo artist.
Counting seven studio albums from 1998’s Unfinished Monkey Business though to 2009’s My Way and now Ripples, a look at Brown’s work reveals his album titles are vital clues to identifying at least three stages of his creative journey: first a man needing to get few things off his chest, striving to let new inspiration and ideas run freely. Later, experimentation and finding his own voice as a solo artist.
As for Ripples, it’s a tremendous achievement with crystal clear direction and a consistency that never compromises on variety and intelligence. Recorded in Liverpool with finishing touches at Abbey Road, Brown took complete control of every aspect, on production, video direction, artwork design, writing, musicianship – in both concrete and abstract terms, there’s a strong voice throughout.
That voice – perhaps the most recognisable northern twang in British music – sounds better, more powerful than ever, on Breathe And Breathe Easy for instance. Brown’s natural leaning towards the rebellious is intact, lyrical substance and political views channelled through themes such as environmental issues and political apathy.
On The Dream And The Dreamer he declares that ‘Government is not your friend’, while environmental concerns are touched upon through the jazzy vocals of the softly textured Blue Sky Day as he laments, ‘Shall we pretend that it ain’t all happening, that it will go away. Jet planes making cape tails’. There’s covers of the reggae track Black Roses by Barrington Levy, which pays tribute to the original version whilst adding a rock touch, and Mikey Dread’s Break Down The Walls, that’s much closer to the original.
Ripples might not carry the same intense energy, attitude or fiery touch as some of his earlier material, but it’s far more together musically and leaves a much stronger impression.
Seventeen years on from an interview with Tony Wilson in which he reflected on his career by saying, ‘I shouldn’t be here, pop music is supposed to have a shorter life span’, Ripples serves to prove that Ian Brown certainly does deserve to be here, and that his music is bigger and better than ever.
By Live4ever - Posted on 01 Feb 2019 at 9:39am