Eels – The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett...

It’s been quite a journey for Mark Oliver Everett and the band he formed in California back in 1995. Eels became one of the first acts to sign to the Geffen/Spielberg backed venture Dreamworks Records and almost immediately enjoyed considerable success with their debut album Beautiful Freak released in 1996. The singles ‘Novacaine for the Soul’ and ‘Susan’s House’ were international hits and it appeared as though Everett could do no wrong. But the bands apparently relentless rise to fame and recognition was overshadowed by deep personal tragedy; Everett lost his sister to suicide in 1996 and his mother succumbed to cancer in 1998. Everett went on to write an excellent memoir: Things the Grandchildren Should Know, an autobiography that catalogues with typical gallows humour a life stalked by bad luck and misfortune. Although Eels haven’t quite managed to sustain the success of their first three albums, they have endured, and their continued popularity cannot readily be explained. Everett follows his own star, and has rarely taken any notice of musical trends and fashions so Eels music always feels out of step and/or blissfully ignorant of what’s going on in the current music scene. He has continued to write honestly and unflinchingly about his life and experiences and ‘The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett’ is perhaps his most personal album since ‘Electro Shock Blues’ in 1998. This is a collection of songs imbued with a singular warmth and compassion, and to these ears, represents a career best. It feels like a reappraisal of sorts – Everett is in reflective mood as he looks back on a lifetime of mistakes and wrong turns. It is a gentle sounding record, largely acoustic based but decorated with tinkling glockenspiel and celesta, clarinet, flute and strings that give the album...

Ron Sexsmith – Forever Endeavour...

Canadian born singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith is something of a music business enigma.  Since the release of his first album in 1991, he has been critically lauded by the music press and feted by some of the most celebrated names in rock and pop. A host of admirers including Chris Martin, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Steve Earle and Sheryl Crow have all proclaimed his greatness in the past, with many of them covering his songs in their live repertoire. And yet, a major commercial breakthrough has eluded him, something that is obviously a source of immense frustration based on comments he has made in interviews over the last few years. On recent albums, he has flirted with a more pop oriented sound but Forever Endeavour marks a return to a back to basics approach, and sees him reunite with legendary producer Mitchell Froom, who produced Sexsmith’s first three albums. The result is an album of acoustic based, melodic folk- pop streaked with his trademark melancholy, performed in his unassuming, laidback style. It is unlikely to add to his list of admirers, but dedicated fans of Sexsmith will find plenty here that has a ring of familiarity about it – Sexsmith has always been a consummate song-writer and his belief in the power of the song shines through on every one of these tracks. He has doggedly adhered to the belief that if a song is good enough, nothing else matters, and so this is an album out of time, out of step with current trends and fashions in the fickle world of pop. ‘Nowhere to Go’ opens the album with a plucked acoustic guitar melody and a flourish of French horn before settling into comfortable Ron Sexsmith territory – all the same lyrical...