The Kundalini Target
Every generation of musicians has its jobbing guitarist. The obvious ’60s incarnation was Eric Clapton, a musician who learned his trade in John Mayall’s attic ‘woodshedding’ – a practice, commonly associated with jazz, in which a musician locks himself away for months on end to perfect his craft) Steve Cradock, Ocean Colour Scene’s studious stringsman, has been woodshedding very publicly for the best part of two decades, a devout student and accepted peer of Paul Weller.
To say his debut solo album bears similarities to his sometime boss is a little lazy. How could it not? Cradock has been at Weller’s side on albums stretching right back to Wild Wood. He’s part of the furniture, and so an integral part of the sound.
Knowing that Weller performed backing vocals, it’s tempting to approach this album as a kind of spot-the-Modfather game, though that temptation is quickly overcome by the warmth of the songs. The Kundalini Target feels like a real family affair (Uncle Paul is joined on backing vocals by Sally, Steve’s wife), and very quickly wraps its affections around you in a way that Ocean Colour Scene’s more melancholy moments manage to.
If he’s a little heavy-handed with his lyrics occasionally, his nose for a good tune more than makes up for it. From ‘Something Better’, the predictably psychedelic (but gorgeous) opening track, via the Radiohead-esque textures of ‘On And On’, right through to the summery ‘It’s Transcendental’, the album itches in a way that can only be soothed by repeated listening. It’s a very bright debut from a man who has spent his career in someone else’s shadow.
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Steve Martin was born with talent meant to be divided among 17 babies – check the nursery records surrounding his birth and you’re likely to find a group of future layabouts and nose-pickers, for this guy clearly sucked all the brains from the room. A Renaissance man, he is a comedian, actor, playwright, novelist and appreciator of fine art. What other skills is Martin hiding? Has anybody witnessed the man’s curveball? As he enters his golden years, will he challenge the career of Ron Jeremy?
Of course, the white-haired performer has long possessed at least one other knack: he’s a capable banjoist who has played with such notables as Béla Fleck, Earl Scruggs and The Muppets. With The Crow, Martin unveils his first music album – it follows ‘King Tut’, the ’70s single about a funky mummy – and features songs he’s written over the past 45 years. ‘In my old comedy act,’ Martin writes in the liner notes, ‘I said, “You just can’t play a sad song on the banjo.” This was for comic effect only, because I knew the banjo had a capacity for mournful melodies.’ Indeed, The Crow is wistful and nostalgic, both in its instrumentals and those numbers featuring high-profile guest singers such as Dolly Parton and Vince Gill, who duet on a yearning ballad, ‘Pretty Flowers’. Martin himself sings only one tune, ‘Late For School’. He should have voiced more: like many stand-ups, he sings with natural flow and distinct personality. How shocking.
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