June Album Of The Month
‘THE MAN WITH STARS ON HIS KNEES’
Very occasionally after a great film at the cinema, people break into applause. It’s not planned. They just have to react by doing something.
I got a review copy of ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ late one evening and after a first listen I felt compelled to write some words down: It was an album that demanded an immediate reaction. In a music and media world where hype is common and not always warranted, quality recordings always shine through. And make no mistake – irrespective of personal taste or fashion – this album is really rather special.
In a classic sense of what some remember an album to represent, this new material from Aaron Buchanan’s new band works as a collection of songs, rather than as a hunt for singles or standout songs. This sense of the ‘sum of the pieces’ making an album extends beyond the music. The original artwork and design were marshalled by the band to complement the music. Overall, there is a sense of full experience with this album as a body of work and a ‘manner’ about the people behind the music. There is a pride and passion in the music-making and a meticulous attention to detail in its every aspect that takes one back to the 70s when an album was a full and immersive sensory experience.
On to the music, the ordering of tracks is interesting. ‘Morals’ – a song I premiered on my rock show – would for many be an obvious album opener, but interestingly here it closes the album; a conclusion to a journey through highs and lows, a fanfare that references all the moods and textures that have been felt over the previous 40 minutes.
The album opener signposts a sense of looming drama – but not even this can prepare you for the excitement that kicks off in track two, as ‘All The Things You’ve Said And Done’ hurtles towards you with all the weight of Santa’s Cola lorry, driving at full speed with the volume up to full and the bearded driver singing at full gusto behind the wheel. In just four minutes you know you’re in for an album listen that’s going to be quite special.
‘Dancing Down Below’ strikes me as a great radio rocker. In my mind, on first listen I felt an indie/punky edge to it – that made me think of an improbable Queen and Pulp mash-up between ‘Common People’ and a gloves-off 70’s rocker like ‘Let Me Entertain You.’
Following the vocal acrobatics of ‘The Devil That Needs You,’ the opening of ‘Journey Out Of Here’ offers a welcome break to the album’s relentless intensity – a chance to come up for air. But there’s no filler here: The song has a widescreen, atmospheric opening that invites you to paint pictures in your mind, as you get drawn in to the inevitable crescendo that takes the song to a new level. An anthem for ‘the now’ at a time of broken trust, spin and manufactured false realities: A musical oasis. This track also features a wonderful guitar solo full of expression that would make you quite happy for this song to run on for a further 15 minutes.
In the title track – ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ – we say hello to a new Freddie. You feel Freddie is back in the room with much of this album, perhaps getting a sense for how Freddie may have sounded if he had ever sung angry songs! Everything you loved from 70’s Queen is in this song: versatile beautiful vocals, bombastic rousing choruses and a brilliant eye for melody. And then there’s the guitar solo, more than a nod to Brian May and the ‘Bicycle Race’ solo. In the title track, we have a song that wouldn’t be at all out of place on Queen 2 or Sheer Heart Attack: A blissful song in every respect.
‘A God Is No Friend’ gives us a change of direction and mood, which the album is richer for. Seemingly a less complex track, but a great blues-rock guitar vibe with another vocal masterclass from Aaron.
In keeping with the final stage of a live rock show, ‘Left Me For Dead’ and ‘Mind of a Mute’ deliver rock intensity as we begin the final charge of this masterful album. Rockers with long hair can have a nice ‘Timotei moment’ to these tracks and let their hair fly to the driving rock grooves.
Great albums start and finish well and the closer ‘Morals’ doesn’t disappoint. It captures all the elements that make this album shine. A perfect closer to what is a hugely impressive album.
In recent months, the sad passing of rock heroes that have left us too soon prompts music lovers to reflect on past glories – but it must also remind us on the importance of investing in the next generation of rock talent. In ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ we have a debut album of real substance – a serious calling card that encourages us look forward with confidence, hope and excitement.
The Man With Stars On His Knees is released on 26 May 2017
More information on Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics at https://www.facebook.com/TheCultClassics/