Saturday, 14 September 2013

Duncan Maitland – Lullabies For The 21st Century

Good old fashioned easy-on-the-ear pop, big on tunes and refreshingly low on cynicism.

Every once in a while a record comes along that may be out of step with current fashions, but is so well written and executed that it deserves a wider audience. This debut solo effort from Duncan Maitland is that sort of record. A shame that quite often such records fall through the cracks press-coverage wise, losing column inches to lesser-talented attention seekers.

Comprising of eleven songs, all with big catchy melodies, that hark back to a time when tunes were considered an essential part of a record's make-up. (Strange to think that melodies are now often an afterthought to a lot of today's song-smiths.) This album sounds to me like the latest addition to that peculiarly English or Anglophilic thread of music and songwriting that begins with McCartney's White Album contributions, continues with the melancholic baroque pop of The Bee Gees, and Gilbert O'Sullivan, through ELO's less bombastic moments, and continues with XTC and the adult-orientated pop of Crowded House and The High Llamas.

It's the early 70's sound that resonates most loudly throughout this set of songs. Real instruments well recorded with an analogue warmth, and treated with just the right amount of minimal effects make for an album that would sit nicely in your collection next to any of the artists mentioned above. The XTC comparison is particularly pertinent, with Maitland having previously contributed keyboards to their recordings, and also written songs with Andy Partridge. The artistic cross pollination is returned by XTC's Colin Moulding guesting on Maitland's album.

Highlights include the ascending “ba, ba, ba” backing vocals on Crash Position. (Jimmy Saville would have approved!), along with the fairground organ gone wrong intro of Horror Stories. There's even room for some Sinatra style crooning for album closer Insect Under The Stone. In truth there's not a bad track here, and though it may be a little too soft rock for some folk's tastes that would frankly be their loss.