Sunday, December 11, 2011

Barry Adamson Sets Us Free: A Review Of The New 2012 Album From This Pioneer

I've always felt that Barry Adamson was one of the most criminally underrated musicians in rock.

From his time in Magazine, to his work in Nick Cave's Bad Seeds on their first string of classic records, to his solo albums, to his soundtrack work, Mr. Adamson has demonstrated his talents in multiple genres for more than 30 years now.

I suppose there's a chance that fans simply take for granted the great work of Mr. Adamson as he dabbles, and then thrives, in multiple styles?

Which brings us to his newest solo album, I Will Set You Free, due to be released on 30 January 2012.

I am the sort of guy who's prone to hyperbole but I've got to say: this is, perhaps, Barry Adamson's best, most consistent solo album so far. While tracks here take considerable chances, there are also enough other bits that recall his earlier albums so as to please long-time fans.

Ten cuts here on I Will Set You Free (2012) so let's dive in.

Like some lost collaboration from The Stooges and The Family Stone, "Get Your Mind Right" kicks things off. There's a sexy bit of menace here as Barry purrs the lyrics like Sly Stone covering one of those Bowie-produced Iggy Pop cuts recorded in Berlin. Funky, punky, and the perfect song for crankin' as you scour a highway at 3:00 AM.

"Black Holes In My Brain" is a jazzy stomper with prominent piano and horn runs, and then Barry reveals "Turnaround" -- who knew he could update Scott Walker so successfully for the 21st century?

Not as arch as when Neil Hannon does this sort of thing, and with some retro-futuristic bits thrown in -- echoes of Stereolab -- Adamson provides a warm, vulnerable vocal over one of his best melodies in ages. There's a hint of American AM rock from the 1970s, but the cut is such an original and fresh mix of disparate influences that I had to play it a few times before I made it to the rest of the record.

And it's catchy as hell!

"The Power Of Suggestion" mixes the influence of Adamson's old band-mate Nick Cave with the style of Jarvis Cocker. Like an upbeat outtake from Pulp's This Is Hardcore (1998), the track is another winner, wildly melodic and jazzy.

A few weeks ago I gave you news on "Destination" and, in context, the song sounds even better. The Iggy Pop-inspired riff-rocker still inspires, think Evil Heat-era Primal Scream too.

"The Trigger City Clues" should please fans of Barry Adamson songs like "The Man With The Golden Arm" and "The Big Bamboozle" or other, older soundtrack-inspired tracks. There's something here that reminded me of Material's somewhat forgotten masterpiece Seven Souls (1990). Adamson's spoken-and-sung vocals are fantastic, full of menace, yearning, and bite, and the instrumentation mixes John Barry-esque moments with a squall of Sixties-inspired guitar.

One of the best, most typically Barry Adamson-like, tracks on I Will Set You Free.

"Looking To Love Somebody" updates Gainsbourg, and "The Sun And The Sea" rocks with that Iggy/Cave vibe again, but it's the Scott Walker bits in "If You Love Her" that anchor the second half of this wonderful album.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that I Will Set You Free is a summation of Barry Adamson's entire career. There are tracks here that move his art forward, and tracks here that recall his past glories.

It wouldn't entirely be a lie to hand this record to someone, saying it was Barry Adamson's Greatest Hits as I Will Set You Free so perfectly and succinctly summarizes the talents of the musician under discussion.

I Will Set Your Free will be released on 30 January 2012 and you can keep up to date with Barry Adamson on his official website: