The March 2015 Rough Trade Album of the Month is “Fresh Blood” by Matthew E White. This is the second consecutive Album of the Month with a more traditional conventional sound to it, which is unusual in itself.
White is 32 years old and from Richmond, Virginia in the USA. This is his second album and is released on his own Spacebomb label. White set Spacebomb up with a resident house band. This replicates the model used by Motown who used The Funk Brothers, the Wrecking Crew who performed on the Beach Boys and Phil Spector records amongst others and currently the Dapkings, who are the Daptone house band. White is very much looking to create a coherent sound and aesthetic for Spacebomb.
The covers have an extended lookalike obi strip along the side of the sleeve. An Obi strip is a Japanese adornment which you will recognise from those expensive 1970’s import album.
White himself is part of the house band and appears to be an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar and keyboards amongst other things. The band played on Natalie Prass’s recent LP which I mentioned in an earlier blog post. The album has a classic 70’s feel to it. Lou and John Cale noted there is trouble with classicists: White avoids this largely due to the skill of his songwriting which covers a number of genres and the quality of the musicianship. He has quite a breathy vocal technique and sounds like he is recorded close miked.
The first track I’ll feature is the lead off track, “Take Care Of My Baby”. This is effectively the title track with the refrain “I’m pumping fresh blood for y’all.” The track is a lovely slice of blue eyed soul, an update of Hall & Oates and Lewis Taylor. It benefits from a lovely string and brass arrangement. It is one of my favourite songs of 2015 so far.
The second track is “Rock and Roll Is Cold” which was released as a pre album single. This seems like a very close cousin of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” both in terms of the arrangement and chord sequence.It has a nice momentum to it and is a good walking song, something I’m always looking out for.
The whole album is beautifully arranged. In particular the strings are very reminiscent of Paul Buckmaster’s work on Elton’s early seventies albums, “Madman Across the Water” and “Tumbleweed Connection” and Bob Ezrin on “Berlin”. The Album of the Month extra is a CD version of “Fresh Blood/No Skin”. This is an interesting exercise stripping backing vocals, strings and horns. It is similar to what was done to “Let It Be” a few years ago.
I’ll be posting on this in a few days, but in the meantime, here’s some lovely stuff from Elton at one of my favourite venues, the Royal Festival Hall, with Paul Buckmaster conducting. It’s “Tiny Dancer” from 1972 as featured in Almost Famous for the apres gig singalong on the coach scene.
I hope you enjoy Matthew E White.
PS The April Album of the Month has just arrived. It is “Wand” by Golem – no, me neither.