David Gray
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A Century Ends , 6.5/10
Flesh , 5/10
Sell Sell Sell , 6/10
White Ladder , 6.5/10
A New Day At Midnight, 6.5/10
Life In Slow Motion (2005), 5.5/10
Draw The Line (2009), 5/10
Foundling (2010), 4/10
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David Gray is a singer-songwriter from Wales who is blessed with a warm, vibrant tenor a` la Van Morrison. The passionate confessions of A Century Ends (Hut, 1993) established Gray as a major voice. The strength of the album lies with the initial tryptic: the calm, quasi-spiritual crescendo of Shine stands as his personal manifesto; the social satire of A Century Ends blends Moondance's fluid melodism with Warren Zevon's emphatic piano-driven fatalism; another poignant tune, Debauchery, projects reflections of Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde.
The rest of the album does not live up to this trio of songs. In the longer and more ambitious Gathering Dust Gray sounds like the angrier version of Astral Weeks-period Van Morrison. But Gray tends to overdo and It's All Over drowns in its own heaviness. Wisdom charges full force, but falls short of its emphatic ambitions.
The combo of Neil Maccoll (guitar, mandolin), Robin Millar (guitar), Michael Smith (saxophone), Dave Anderson (keyboards), Mark Smith (bass) and Steve Sidelnyk (drums) turned out to be just about the right compromise between loud and soft, thick and sparse, that would best serve Gray's voice and lyrics.

Flesh (Hut, 1994) veers towards a more trivial celtic-flavored folk-rock, reminiscent of the Waterboys. Electric work-outs such as What Are You, Loves Old Song and Made Up My Mind obscure the simple candor of Lullaby and Falling Free. Flesh and Mystery Of Love echo the romantic epos of the debut.

Contemporary EPs (including Shine and Wisdom) will be collected on The EPs (Caroline, 2001).

Gray redeemed himself with Sell Sell Sell (EMI, 1996), thanks to energetic numbers that straddle the line between rhythm and blues and folk-rock, such as Faster Sooner Now, and to power-ballads that borrow Warren Zevon's epic pace, such as Magdalena and Late Night Radio. Vibrant songs such as Sell Sell Sell, Everytime, What Am I Doing Wrong and Forever Is Tomorrow Is Today attack his private and public demons but put words before notes. Similarly, dejected meditations such as Only The Lonely and Gutters Full of Rain present a mature bard in full control of his emotions, but have little musical value. The ghostly closer, Folk Song, accompanied by sparse piano notes, strikes where the previous songs could not make a dent, and sums up his philosophy with the couplet "There is no light in heaven/ that my eyes can see".

Lost Songs 95-98 (ATO, 2001), recorded in 1999 but unreleased for two years, is, alas, an focused and sparse work, albeit freed of the funereal mood of its predecessors and enhanced with live instruments rather than drum-machine and synths (Twilight, Flame Turns Blue).

David Gray e` un cantautore del Wales dotato di un tenore alla Van Morrison. Le confessioni vibranti di A Century Ends (Hut, 1993) avevano fatto ben sperare, ma Flesh (Hut, 1994) aveva virato inopinatamente verso il folk-rock dei Waterboys. Gli EP del periodo (comprendenti Shine , Wisdom) verranno raccolti su The EPs (Caroline, 2001). Sell Sell Sell (EMI, 1996) lo aveva parzialmente riabilitato, grazie soprattutto all'epica Magdalena.

Lost Songs 95-98 (ATO, 2001), registrato nel 1999 ma rimasto inedito per due anni, e` invece un'opera troppo scarna e sfocata, benche' si liberi in parte del clima funereo dei precedenti e utilizzi strumenti dal vivo invece che drum-machine e synths (Twilight, Flame Turns Blue).

White Ladder (ATO, 2000), completed the resurrection of this humble storyteller whose pop vignettes composed a frail albeit humorours universe. This time he penned the bittersweet and mildly orchestral Please Forgive Me, the soulful and pensive We're Not Right, whith whistling synthesizer and a synthetic beat, and the mournful piano ballad This Year's Love, with no rhythm and just a shadow of violins. His voice jumped from the dreamy crooning of Silver Lining to the wavering yodel of White Ladder. Van Morrison's Astral Weeks was an inspiration, but Gray had drained away the psychedelic and surreal elements. However, it was Babylon that left the mark, thanks to its fast electronic beat, its country-ish guitar licks, and vocals that blended Van Morrison's passionate shout and a lounge-y husky baritone. Gray created a style of his own by weaving together acoustic melodies and dance beats. Sail Away (with a melodic line reminiscent of the Beatles' A Day In the Life although in a Bob Dylan-ian tone) was a more conventional lullaby of mainstream pop music. But Gray's art also thrived away from the limelight, for example in the bleak soulscapes of Nightblindness and especially in the nine-minute colloquial fantasy Say Hello Wave Goodbye.

On A New Day At Midnight (RCA, 2002), dispensing with the lighter fare of his best-seller, Gray comes up with a somber, mournful, bleak fresco of his private feelings. The album elects the stately dirge (a literate, western, white variation on the blues) to his favorite format (Dead in the Water, Last Boat to America, Real Love, December) and progresses towards darker and darker territory until it reaches the piano-based ode to death of The Other Side (which recycles the same melody as the opener, Dead In The Water). There are moment of melodic and rhythmic relief (Be Mine, Caroline, Kangaroo), but they almost sound out of place. The theme is pain and the music makes it feel it.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Iano Della Grotta)

White Ladder (ATO, 2000), che contiene le sorprendenti hits Babylon e Please Forgive Me, completa la resurrezione di questo umile menestrello, le cui pop vignettes compongono un universo fragile ma divertente (This Year's Love, Sail Away, Silver Lining ). Gray ha creato un proprio stile fondendo melodie acustiche e beats dance. Astral Weeks di Van Morrison è un'ispirazione, Gray lo ha svuotato dagli elementi psichedelici e surreali. Su A New Day At Midnight (RCA, 2002), Gray esce con un affresco tetro, doloroso e brullo dei suoi sentimenti. L'album sceglie lo stile funerario elegante (una variazione colta, occidentale e bianca del blues) come struttura (Dead in the Water, Last Boat to America, Real Love, December) e si muove verso un territorio sempre più cupo fino a raggiungere la pianistica Ode alla Morte The Other Side (che ricalca la stessa melodia della prima traccia, Dead In The Water). Ci sono momenti di sollievo ritmico e melodico (Be Mine, Caroline, Kangaroo), ma sembrano quasi sempre fuoriluogo. Il tema e' il dolore e la musica lo fa sentire.

Life In Slow Motion (ATO, 2005) is a subdued orchestral effort that displays Gray's renewed interest in arrangements and dynamics (Alibi, Disappearing World, Life In Slow Motion, the seven-minute Now and Always, From Here You Can Almost See the Sea), but fails to either involve or infect.

Draw The Line (Downtown, 2009) was more aggressive but less lyrical than previous albums. A loud rhythm and a rollicking piano refrain shore up the Van Morrison-ian croon of Fugitive . Album standout Jackdaw is a driving piano-based orchestral meditation with Morrison-ian passion. The ebullient rocking Stella The Artist exudes an almost garage intensity. Breath is a hard-edged lullabye a` la Cat Stevens. On the other hand, Draw The Line is a plaintive country ballad and Transformation a piano-based country lament. A feverishly tinkling guitar bestows an oneiric feling on the calmly introspective shuffle Nemesis.

Little can rescue the facile odes of Foundling (2010) from oblivion: Foundling and When I Was in Your Heart.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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