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Jonathan Wilson – Rare Birds

March 13, 2018

Every Friday I go to the Electric Fetus web site to check out new releases. Recently this blurb caught my attention:

Jonathan Wilson had a busy 2017, producing Father John Misty’s Grammynominated Pure Comedy and touring arenas around the globe as a guitarist and vocalist for Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters (for whom he also contributed to the lauded Is This The Life We Really Want? album.)

I navigated over to Spotify and gave the album a listen and I was instantly hooked. First impressions are that it reminds me of: Pink Floyd, War On Drugs, George Harrison, Radiohead, Father John Misty, Tom Petty, Gerry Rafferty, Gordon Lightfoot, Imperial Bedroom era Elvis Costello, Court and Spark era Joni, Wings era McCartney and Roxy Music. Yet it sounds original. The music is elaborate, ambitious and epic. This is the best Pink Floyd album since Ray LaMontagne’s Ouroboros.

I picked up the indie record store edition – which is a beautiful piece of packaging.

“Trafalgar Square” opens the album in true Pink Floyd style: slow, spacey, psychedelic and with a giant Floyd rhythmic riff. Wilson’s voice even sounds a little like David Gilmour. You can see why Roger Waters would hire this guy for his band.

“Me” again has the Floyd feel. The music floats and feels like a warm blanket. There is even a wild sax solo juxtapositioned on top of the mellow grooves to close out the song.

“Over the Midnight” has a nice long intro that evokes flying. When Wilson gets to the hook, he goes with R.E.M. harmonies – which is perfect. He has wonderfully bubbling sounding drums for the bridge. He then teases his David Gilmour meets Jerry Garcia guitar sound with a short solo. If you only have time to sample one song this is the one.

“There’s a Light” sprinkles a little country with some pedal steel on the lush George Harrison sounding song.

“Sunset Blvd” is a piano driven tale of carousing that is so mellow and lush that it sounds like a beautiful sunset looks.

“Rare Birds” combines the spacey rock of Pink Floyd with the a bridge the steals the hook from Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.” Believe it or not, that actually works.

“49 Hairflips” opens with a brooding piano that would not sound out-of-place on Joni’s Court and Spark. It has a bit of a McCartney “Maybe I’m Amazed” feel to it (but lyrically darker). It soon evolves back to the Floyd sound.

“Miriam Montague” could have been on Elvis Costello’s 1982 masterpiece Imperial Bedroom. Father John Misty is a guest on the track, but his contribution is undetectable. The song is dreamy.

“Loving You” has an exotic middle eastern sound thanks to Laraaji who sings and plays zither. Lana Del Rey is on this track, but like Father John Misty on the last track, she is undetectable.

“Living with Myself” is a luscious ballad with Lana Del Rey in a more prominent role.

“Hard to Get Over” is a psychedelic mashup of Radiohead and Tom Petty. It has a beat and melody that recalls “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

“Hi-Ho the Righteous” is alt-country due to Greg Leisz’s pedal steel guitar.

“Mulholland Queen” ends the album on a somber note with a piano driven dirge.

It is a gift when an album blindsides you – Rare Birds is such a gift – it is guaranteed a spot on my 2018 best of list. The album has a beautiful sound to it: great arrangements, lush production values and lots of separation over a wide soundscape. If you are a fan of Pink Floyd and spacey jams that make you feel like you are floating, you will love this album. Jonathan Wilson has two more LPs and one EP in his catalog – he has caught my attention and I will be checking those out. I will be listening for his contributions on the Father John Misty albums too.

Final note: just listened to Wilson’s 2013 release Fanfare – wow that one sounds great too. I think I have a new obsession.

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From → Music Reviews

One Comment
  1. Nice, I’ll take the recommendation.

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