norman watt-roy Faith and Grace (CD, £7.25)label: Cadiz
On Norman Watt-Roy's first ever solo album all of the songs are new recordings and the collection was laid down in just two days. The album came into being as Norman had a couple of instrumentals that he wanted to record, but spurred on by his producer Gilad Atzmon and his wife Patty the music started to flow. The process was halted by the sudden death of his wife but, slowly, Norman has got his mojo back and now the work is complete. Whilst some tracks are instrumentals, some feature Norman’s vocals or guest singers. Norman asked Peter Blake, who often sketched Blockheads shows, if he could use one and the artist said simply, “I’ll do it”, and created the cover for him. The album ranges from reworked Ian Dury track ‘Billericay Dickie’ to a new version of Wilko Johnson's ‘Roxette’ (which Wilko performs on), to Jazz-tinged instrumentals. This is a masterclass in bass, but also a great listen. ‘Billericay Dickie’ opens the album and is followed by a recording of Dury introducing Norman at the last ever show they did at the Palladium; this is where the album title comes from, “Faith and Grace” being rhyming slang for Bass. ‘Papa-chu-pap’ also features a sample of Dury and is in fact a kind of collage of samples taken from live shows. The track ‘Norman! Norman!’ is built around the riff that triggers the traditional crowd chant at a Blockheads gig [though the ‘crowd’ featured on the album is actually Chas Jankel, Mickey Gallagher, Wilko and Phillip Bagnall!] but also brings in some flourishes from some of Norman’s most celebrated works, not least ‘The Magnificent Seven’ by The Clash and ‘Relax’ by Frankie. Wanting to cover a Wilko track, Norman picked ‘Roxette’ which his some-time band leader plays on and sings. The reworked track is in half time, with three verses, no solos and some extra horns. Full of variety, the album features ‘Save It’ sung by Sarah Gillespie and based on the reworked bassline from ‘Rhythm Stick’, whilst Norman’s Mexican girlfriends perform the chants on ‘Watchu-wa’ [essentially Mexican for “La la la”]. ‘Me, My Bass & I’ was intended to feature vocals from Nick Cave [Norman performs at Cave’s solo shows] or Robert Wyatt but now features snippets from an interview Gilad did with Norman, whilst ‘Moichie Tantrum’ features the producer ranting at him! The album closer is a cover of ‘My Foolish Heart’ which was Patty’s favourite song, and, as Norman says is a nice way to say goodnight. This is an album full of heart, passion and has been crafted with care. “Faith and Grace” indeed.
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