The Return of the 80s
There has been a trend of bands from the 70s/80s returning/reinventing themselves/releasing new albums over the last few years – The Professionals released what Vive Le Rock magazine named as their album of 2018, The Skids have played some of the best gigs of the last few years and released their first album of new material since 1981 in “Burning Cities”.
Is this a welcome trend? I suppose it depends on your point of view and whether you think there are enough new acts about playing live and releasing innovative new music. I love hearing new music from new bands and recently have heard a few that I love.
However, being “of a certain age” it does please me to see bands from back in the day coming back and releasing new music, not just touring and living on the nostalgia of days gone by and just playing the “hits”. (Don’t get me wrong I’d be disappointed if they didn’t play the “hits”. It is also good to bolster them with some new songs!)
Add Ian Donaldson to this list, and what a welcome return he has made…
Ian Donaldson – “From Stars We Came”
Ian Donaldson, he of the velveteen voice has been busy recently. Having released his debut novel “A Rainbow in the Basement” last year, Ian Donaldson now returns to music with his sumptuous comeback solo album “From Stars We Came” with songs and tunes enough to take your breath away.
The former H2O frontman and member of super-group Four Good Men is supporting the album release on Toy-town Records with a couple of album launch gigs in February in Glasgow’s Websters Theatre.
Ticker Tape Parade
As Ian’s familiar sumptuously rich vocals kick in on opening track “Ticker Tape Parade” with its driving beat, hooks and big guitar licks it is like the return of a long-lost friend. This was the first track from the album revealed by Ian last year and is a powerful declaration of intent for the rest of the album. An enriching tune and I can even hear shades of Billy Idol in the “parade, parade, parade” refrain.
“Street Car Desire” is another hook laden tune with Ian’s uplifting vocal continuing to be on top form, with both bold and wistful breathy vocals. Sublime contemplative guitars pull you in and quickly have you hooked.
Let Love In
The pace slows for ballad “Let Love In”, with a backline that evokes “Swimmer”, the title track of The Big Dish album of the same name. This underpins a simple nevertheless effective song advocating love for your fellow human. A message we should all abide by.
Funky guitars herald the arrival of “Turn on the Radio”, before Ian’s voice envelops you and imbues shades of Scott Walker in the atmospheric “In a Far Away Place”. The song builds and builds its layers to a heartfelt climatic ending.
“Until Life Turns Your Way Again” is another bold thumping behemoth of a track. The production of the album really shows off the depth and range of Ian’s voice and the accompanying sophisticated arrangements. “Welcome to the World” follows with another vast melody and robust sing-along chorus.
I Dream to Sleep
Everyone will be familiar with the classic “I Dream to Sleep”. H2Os biggest hit reaching number 17 in June 1983. This understated re-arrangement of the song is stripped back with acoustic guitar and strings and works tremendously, giving Ian’s crisp impassioned vocal the platform it rightly deserves.
Penultimate song “Angel Pale” has a heavy 1970’s glam rock leaning. The song is an adoring homage to the magnificence of Bowie and the influence he had, especially on a young Ian (“he changed my teenage DNA, life would never be the same”). You can play a game of spot the nods and tributes to Bowie songs and riffs throughout.
The haunting album closer “From Stars We Came” is a dazzling (blue) diamond of a song. A passionate and fitting end to an outstanding album with Ian’s voice soaring to (just outside of) heaven.
“From stars we came and to stars we’ll go…”
The album is out now on Toytown records
Ian, with full band, is playing Websters Theatre in Glasgow on the 9th and 10th of February. His first live dates in Glasgow for 20 years.