CD Review: Joe Stilgoe - We Look to the Stars



Joe Stilgoe - We Look to the Stars
(NS&A B007N8Q9V6, CD review by Jeanie Barton)
We Look to The Stars is Joe Stilgoe’s newly released album of self-penned songs; a slick, punchy collection of high energy retro feel tracks evoking lindy hop hedonism.

Joe is an exceptional pianist and has peppered the mostly pop feel album with some jazz heavy moments; his first solo during the opening track Let’s Begin shows his dexterity at the keyboard and an ambitious George Benson-esque parallel ‘played and sung’ scat feature during the funky, Now Wasn’t that Fun. His influences in composition and arrangement are tightly melded; We Should Kiss modulates similarly to Mack The Knife and powers along in a Louis Prima-like showman style. I also hear a through-line of modern singer-songwriter influences, particularly the recurring “um-cha” groove which reminded me of more upbeat Gilbert O’Sullivan numbers.

(That’s The Way It Crumbles) Cookie Wise introduces a different vibe - a beautifully cascading piano ballad featuring rich string accompaniment. The song is born from a line in the film The Apartment starring Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder and Shirley Maclaine. Just as Jack's character Bud is sure all will not end well, he states "That's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise" in the manner of 'perhaps it's not meant to be'. I think it could work very well as a feature song in a Richard Curtis film.

The album continues at a more leisurely pace and with a music theatre feel during The Chestnut Tree while Can’t Catch Me Out evokes the visuals of a Broadway show. Time to Fly utilises thick layered female backing vocals - all tracks are extremely tight musically and highly produced - which, for me, makes them become a little sterile as a result.

An acoustic cover of Ray Davis’ Waterloo Sunset performed by Joe alone at his piano is like a breath of fresh air in its simplicity and a relaxing way to end an album which showcases Joe’s vast and varied musical skill

Featuring:

on double/electric bass - Chris Hill and Mark Hodgson
drums - Ben Reynolds and Simon Lea
guitar - Mark Jaimes and Denny Ilett
trumpet - Mike Lovatt, Simon Finch, James McMillan, Graeme Flowers and Nathan Bray
trombone - Andy Wood
saxophone - Tom Richards, Jamie Anderson and Graeme Blevins
violin – Anna De Bruin Katie Read
viola – Sarah Button
cello – Natalie Rozario
backing vocals – Pricilla Jones, Tracey Riggan, Chris Hill, Ben Reynolds, Steve Trowell, James McMillan
percussion – John Blease

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