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Campbell, Neil: The Outsider -News From Nowhere

Neil Campbell is a name I had first become familiar with after reviewing his album Emergence (2015). The Liverpool multi-instrumentalist/composer has been plying his trade for a while now compiling an impressive body of work, sixteen albums released thus far. His latest album The Outsider - News From Nowhere is based on the book by William Norris, a sociopolitical examination in a post capitalist utopian society. Each instrumental track was formed from Campbell’s interpretations of scenes from the book.

The first track “A Morning Bath” bursts out of the gate with spry acoustic picking and a lilting melody. A dramatic shift into more delicate pastures with a hint of sadness before returning to that uplifting and fast playing. Next is the four part suite “A Market By the Way”. A summery and breezy bit of folk music with the violin getting a serious workout before “Part 2” slows down the pace with a more somber mood. Again the pace quickens with Campbell’s acoustic guitar matching the violin. The outro is slow and serene with gentle arpeggios and sorrowful violin textures. The multi-tracked acoustic guitar in “The Kensington Wood” and the fantastic guitar prowess in “Children on the Road” makes for perhaps the proggiest moments. The synth fills in the up-tempo “Mulleygrubs” and the fast paced “How the Change Came” might also appeal to prog fans.

This is some of the finest acoustic guitar I have heard in an awfully long time. His creativity and imagination comes through in every note, chord and arpeggio played.

The players:
Neil Campbell (classical and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, harpischord, harmonium, synthesizer, glockenspiel, baby vibes, wind chimes, sea drum, shouts, handclaps)
Jon Lawton (percussion programming, shakers, handclaps)
Laurence Cocchiara (violins)
Helen Maher (accordion on track 10)

Track Listing:
1. A Morning Bath (incl. The Bridge) (5:42)
2. A Market By the Way ((Part 1) (3:14)
3. A Market By the Way (Part 2) (3:14)
4. A Market By the Way (Part 3) (1:56)
5. A Market By the Way (Part 4) (1:57)
6. The Kensington Wood (2:01)
7. Children on the Road (2:48)
8. Mulleygrubs (2:12)
9. Clara (2:09)
10. Concerning Love (incl. Questions and Answers) (5:13)
11. Dinner in the Hall of the Bloomsbury Market (2:46)
12. How the Change Came (1:30)
13. Haymaking (1:44)
14. The Little River and the Journey’s End (4:53)

Added: June 24th 2018
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Artist's Official Site
Hits: 1404
Language: english

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Campbell, Neil: The Outsider -News From Nowhere
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-06-24 21:08:21
My Score:

Can it really be three years since I reviewed Liverpudlian guitarist Neil Campbell’s wonderful Tabula Rasa Suite album? Maybe it seems like such a short time ago because it is a collection which has drawn me back to it again and again to discover it’s familiar delights and unearth new joys on every subsequent revisit.

If there’s one thing immediately apparent about its follow up, The Outsider -News From Nowhere, it’s that it is a very different beast altogether. Campbell is still sporting an acoustic guitar that he bends into all manner of different situations and yet The Outsider -News From Nowhere, based on on the book by William Norris of the same name, is sprightly in its playful nature; the four part “A Market By The Way” finding the violin work of Laurence Cocchiara right at the centre of its message. Darting and energetic in the first section, the same instrument soothes in the second as it takes a slight step back, without ever playing second fiddle to the poised and captivating guitar work from Campbell. With a gently Spanish feel in play, the burst of proud energy that segues into Part 3 is helped on its way by John Lawton’s hand percussion and as the latin themes jostle and jape with something a little more contemporary classical, so you are quickly pulled along by the story telling style of the instrumental fare. The closing piece again alters the mood, beautiful but fragile, heartbroken but defiant, it’s a hell of a journey. That all of this takes place in just over ten minutes should tell you how much ground is being expertly covered by this album and not once does it feel like showboating, with the flow and cohesion of The Outsider one of its most endearing features.

Lawton’s hand percussion, by way of handclaps actually introduces the album, the clever recording, incorporating bird song and the sound of lapping water, allowing the claps to reverberate as though we were all standing in an old traditional brick square right in the heart of an ancient town. “A Morning Bath/The Bridge” being a gentle invitation into an album that is always capable of keeping you at its heart as it alters moods and directions. Cleverly a lot of the pieces are short in execution and rich in inspiration, keeping the attention fixed as “The Kensington Wood” offers something more pastoral. Conversely “Mullygrubs” grabs your hand and dances you breathless, while “Dinner In The Hall Of The Bloombury Market” adds a more refined, baroque flavour and “How The Change Came” lives up to its name by combining keyboards and accordion to the mix in a manner that will quickly bring a smile to your face.

The longer pieces are no less affective, with “Concerning Love/Questions And Answers” again highlighting the stunning guitar work on display, while the second section of the song adds reserved accordion interludes, this time courtesy of Helen Maher. As its name suggests, “The Little River And The Journey’s End” closes our journey with a floating, wistful feel that simply leaves you yearning for more and as such implores that you begin the voyage through The Outsider -News From Nowhere all over again.

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