Hayward, Justin: Spirits of the Western Sky
It's been seventeen years since Justin Hayward's last solo album and fourteen since the last Moody Blues album. It's fairly common now to see established rock artists and singer-songwriters take their time in making their next album. Some produce surprising and very unusual albums, grasping elements from the latest in musical fashions and technology, and others by contrast hone their craft in a particular area they have been know for over the years.
Spirits of the Western Sky is of the latter type, with Hayward reaching into a rich seam of melodic invention to produce a set of well-crafted and finely-produced songs. The album is a personal set, each song infused with a tenderness and a sensitive blend of melancholy and optimism. All are based firmly around the guitar with pleasing and balanced chord sequences supporting his touching lyrics. Sprinkled here and there are also country-influenced numbers such as "It's Cold Outside Of Your Heart" and "What You Resist Persists". These are a departure for Hayward, and their stripped back approach reveals new qualities in his voice.
"In Your Blue Eyes" comes complete with soaring strings (courtesy of Anne Dudley), lush multi-tracked guitars and lead solos. It provides a captivating start to the album. Dudley's contribution throughout is subtle and the arrangement add just the right amount of extra colour to a selection of the songs. Hayward's voice on "One Day, Someday", "The Western Sky" and "The Eastern Sun" is at its most vulnerable, and these are I think the best three songs of the album. "The Eastern Sun" is perhaps the most open, with its sparse, folk-like arrangement. It has an utterly timeless quality and could have been written anytime in the last fifty years. The wordless vocalize between the verses, trailing off on its high unresolved note is beautifully delivered. Dudley's string interjections and held notes also provide just the right amount of counterpoint to the central guitar. This is the standout track of the album for me. Lovely stuff; passionate, beautiful and tender. It doesn't need anything added or taken away and simply implores you to play it again as soon as it is over.
"Captivated By You" contains an unexpected harmonic and mood twist into its chorus. This strange jarring is in many ways long overdue in the album, and serves nicely to propel this track on its way. By contrast, the last track tries too hard to impress. "Out There Somewhere", even before its remix version, changes production and song-writing values in one move and I'm not sure this works in the context of the album. The timeless quality of most of the previous songs gets rudely interrupted and we are supplanted somewhere around 1987. This song, I have to say though, is very catchy but it feels less like a labour of love, something so present in the rest of the album.
1) In Your Blue Eyes
2) One Day, Someday
3) The Western Sky
4) The Eastern Sun
5) On The Road To Love
6) Lazy Afternoon
7) In The Beginning
8) It's Cold Outside Of Your Heart
9) What You Resist Persists
10) Broken Dream
11) Captivated By You
12) One Day, Someday (Alternative Extended Version)
14) Out There Somewhere
15) Out There Somewhere (Raul Rincon Remix)
Added: March 18th 2013
Reviewer: Colin Riley
Related Link: Artist Website
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