Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RAVES!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 08/01/04

Album Review

(I'm not likely to do these often, but sometimes I simply must...)

Steve Tilston - "Such & Such" (Market Square MSMCD124)

Cover of Steve Tilston's album 'Such And Such'

It's almost exactly ten years since I first heard Steve Tilston play. I was so impressed that I bought four of his albums on the night (he gave me a discount for bulk purchase, gentleman that he is).

Steve first emerged as a mere colt at the beginning of the 1970s as one of the more interesting figures in the burgeoning 'singer-songwriter' boom of that time. His first LP was widely appreciated and is still much sought-after, but he faded from general view after his then record company tried to turn him into a pop-star without any real effort or know-how on their part.

He forged on despite, and although his name was known for many years only to the cognoscenti, those in the know recognised that here was a talent for the ages. The string of albums he produced in the late 80s and early 90s (some in collaboration with his then-wife Maggie Boyle) produced classic performances and songs which have been widely covered by such luminaries as Fairport ("who's in the band this week?") Convention. Slip Jigs And Reels and Coronado And The Turk have gained classic status, and quite bloody right, too.

Such & Such is Steve's first album of all-new material since 1998's Solorubato. That set was a self-searching, often melancholy work, a working out of emotional and psychic crises. There is little which is 'down' about this new album, however. Here we have a man looking up, out and forward.

One thing Steve Tilston has never been afraid of is variety of styles. So, Totterdown (the only instrumental track on the album) would not sound remotely out of place on Jazz FM of an evening; West End Samba is just what it says on the label. Elsewhere, we have a more 'traditional' singer-songwriter feel to the material, with the brooding The Sniper's Tale, the introspective Mirror Dance, and the driving blues of I Need A Cup Of Coffee.

The closing tracks are about that most perennial of subjects. There Is A Song is a celebration of love (losing it and regaining it), Sweet Such & Such is a paean to the new light of the singer's life, and the whole thing ends with an adaptation of the traditional song The Constant Lover which, despite being one of those tragedies-in-five-verses for which folk music is justifiably renowned, actually sounds remarkably cheerful, due to a deft arrangement.

The arrangements on the whole album are faultless, the playing highly proficient and the production and atmosphere exactly right. If Steve Tilston could ever be said to have suffered a dip in form (doubtful), then this is undeniably Championship material, quite possibly his very best set ever.

Right! What else do you need to be told before you go and buy this album?