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COLIN BLUNSTONE The Ghost of You And Me Ennismore ENNISCD1P (2009)

Colin Blunstone

Colin Blunstone probably doesn't want reminding that he is 2 years short of a stellar 50 year pro-career. But there can be very few vocalists who still exude such an enduring sophistication and a sense of the undiminished joy of singing for a living! And while 'The Ghost of You And Me' may not yield the hits of yore (though both the title track and 'Follow' may find a home on Radio 2) it reconfirms Colin's standing as one of the primary vocalists of our time.

'The Ghost of You And Me' is essentially a collection of love songs and reconvenes Colin's on going solo career either side of the recent Zombies triumphant reunion and his other high profile projects. In fact this album originally took shape 13 years ago and for that reason alone might well be regarded as the follow up to the excellent but poorly distributed 'Echo Bridge'.

The strands of continuity are provided by producer John Sweet who brings the same meticulous production style to the fore, while the delicate string arrangements come courtesy of Chris Gunning, famed for his work on Colin's version of 'Say You Don't Mind'.

'The Ghost of You and Me' works well simply because of Colin's sublime phrasing which brings out every last nuance of the lyrics. Chris Gunning's deft use of plucked strings, bowed cellos and sonorous violins act as the perfect foil for an album that for the most part teases out every timbre, mood change and emotive reflex.

In some respects this is a brave project as the majority of the songs strip Colin's oeuvre down to the bare bones. And yet curiously the opening brace of songs suggest an AOR rock ballad feel. He effortlessly shifts from a whispered line to an upper register swoop, elongates the occasional vowel and briefly extends his full range when required on the impressive title track and on the equally catchy 'Follow'.

The latter song glides mellifluously on the back of a repeated guitar motif. And by the time of the very 80's influenced 'Dance With Li fe' you are only missing the accompanying video to match a very sugary arrangement. That said, perhaps only Colin's warm voice could have made such a decent job of overcoming a slightly overbearing orchestral string arrangement.

And then there's a change, as a succession of string led arrangements bring a more contemplative feel to the songs. Opening with just voice and piano, 'Second Avenue' is arguably the best track on the album showcasing the undiminished quality of Blunstone's voice. Again it is Colin's interpretative skills that bring out the reflective nature of the song. His phrasing, timing and delivery is impeccable and as his vocal line ascends into the final verse, you realise you are in the presence of a performer who if nothing else conveys the sheer joy of singing.

The overlong string intro to 'Beginning' proves to be portentous as the album slips radically from its rock beginnings to a string quartet drawing room ambience.

While most tracks work well, a couple are near misses. On the up side there's a lovely complementary feel between the combination of plucked string, short violin lines and judicious vocal phrasing on 'Any Other Way' which amplifies the best elements and core dynamics of the song. Similarly there's a neat flighty arrangement perfectly matched to Colin breathy vocals on 'Now I Know I'll Never Get Over You' and a lovely melody line and deft use of strings on 'Feels Like Rain'. On the down side the 'Lets Keep the Curtain Closed' drags on with too little intent while 'Love Left A Long Time Ago' is perhaps one love song too many.

If anything, more attention should have been paid to the sequencing of the album. For aside from the big stylistic change a third of the way in, the closing track 'The Sun Will Rise Again' loses its potential impact by offering a somewhat limp and perfunctory ending to the 7 song cycle. 'The Ghost of You And Me' might almost be considered an album within an album and contains some truly great moments. If nothing else it offers conclusive proof that when it comes to interpreting a song Colin Blunstone is still the master.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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