Friday, September 14, 2007

Review of "Chips For Supper" by Stephen Harrison

I haven't had as much time as I thought I might to listen to this, partly due to work pressures, partly due to finding a compatible CD player to play this on. As it's a self-produced effort, it can misbehave on some players. I'm listening as I'm typing here.

Stephen isn't giving me much to go on by way of dates. I recognize some of the pieces from the mid-80s Heyday days, in fact I'm playing keyboards on one of them (track 13, "Pull Up A Chair", as noted in a previous post). There are also the Heyday tracks "Sad & Blue" & "Pack On Your Back" given the big production treatment by Alan Rankine (of Associates fame) & Paul Haig. Unfortunately, while it's good to hear Stephen's voice in a widescreen setting, as it were, the synths overpower the pieces a little. I also remember the epic (6 and a half minutes, more or less), "Lucky Moon", as a song we rehearsed but never quite got the hang of. It sparkles here. Kudos also to Ewan Burke for his restrained production work on tracks 1 & 18 ("Never Say Die" & "Winter Sun").

There are 19 tracks on this CD, only 4 of which I was familiar with. The rest of the material does not disappoint. Stephen is a very accomplished, sometimes quirky (which is still good) songwriter & singer. I'd hazard a guess that on most of the tracks here, it's mostly him playing the instruments -- guitars, keyboards, bass(?) & drum machine. The songs at first sound fragile & delicate, but reveal a harder core on further listens. Songs of longing & melancholy, lost love, the tedium of daily existence, snatches of happiness. The song titles, "Emotional One", "Help Us With The Pain", "World Of Shame", & so on, give a fairly direct picture of the subject matter.

Jangly guitars, a lonely voice which somehow retains traces of optimism, a sense of timelessness, every song a little classic that could somehow be a hit single's very difficult to play favorites as all the songs are very strong yet distinct. I really need to listen to this a lot more. These are Stephen Harrison's soundtracks to short movies maybe he'll make someday. They should be shot with a handheld camera in a grainy black & white, somewhere in Europe, on a rainy day, perhaps. I'm rambling...

Chips For Supper. Who knew they could be so satisfying? Get in touch with Stephen Harrison here.

Thanks for the CD.

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