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TRACK LIST: 1. Grand National 5:30 2. Another Planet 4:43 3. Happy in Bed 5:48 4. Danger 5:16 5. Summer 5:36 6. Fat Freddy's Fingers 6:13 7. This Is a Song 7:43 8. Don't Miss What's Right in Front of You 4:24 9. Mr. May Men (including hidden tracks) 28:35 LINEUP: The Captain Ц vocals; bouzouki, ukulele Tony Taffinder Ц mandolin, banjo, guitars, bodhran; vocals Murray Grainger Ц accordions Dave Bowie Jr. Ц basses With: Pete Earnshaw Ц percussion, drums Andrew Wood Ц didgeridoo; piano Matt Evens Ц dulcimer, vibraphone Alex Eden Ц harmonica; guitars Timmay Arnold Ц percussion Gina Le Faux Ц viola, violin Emily Hingham Ц violin Liz Shaw Ц trumpet Dave Dunn Birch Ц horns Ron Darnbrough Ц vocals Julian Socha Ц lap steel &: Captain's Choir
Prolusion. The UK artist and composer, preferring to be referred to as The Captain these days, first appeared as a solo artist just over a decade ago. He has since left his solo career behind as far as recording material goes. He reappeared a few years back with another project, known to a select few people through two full length albums, but decided to leave that venture behind as well. His latest venture is called CAPTAIN OF THE LOST WAVES, and "Hidden Gems" is the first studio production to emanate from this latest venture of the composer and musician that goes by the moniker "The Captain".
Analysis. I guess, the heart and soul of the compositions that the good captain provides us with on this album reside within the singer/songwriter tradition, as I experience the greater majority of these compositions as material that could easily be performed by a vocalist playing either acoustic guitar or the piano. This is in terms of core style foundation however, and should not be understood as an artist belonging to the contemporary singer/songwriter tradition. I get the feeling that the good captain isn't too fond of the modern take on this tradition, cue the message in the song Danger on the album, regarding finding a cure for performers of that kind, in the song described as something of a disease. What Shaun Hunter and his small army of contributing musicians do with the core foundation of these compositions is still the most interesting aspect of the album. They opt to go for something of a folk music expansion of the arrangements, using various forms of guitar instruments and a liberal array of accordions to create a strong and distinct folk and acoustic music base to the core singer/songwriter foundation. The songs ebb and flow nicely in pace and intensity within that context, with guest musicians adding in bits and pieces where needed: some violin here, some percussion there, a longing harmonica detail and wandering piano motifs can be mentioned, each providing additional elements, at times with layers of instruments providing an almost orchestral sounding magnitude to the material. Further expansions in style are occasional use of jazz-oriented instrument details as well as passages that have more of a gypsy folk music feel to them, sometimes combining both of these into material with more of a cabaret feel to them, and then cabaret music of times past rather than times present. The inclusion of French female vocals set to such an arrangement in one of the three hidden tracks comes across as the captain's ever so slight nod in the direction of a certain Edith Piaf. The songs are melancholic and sad to a slightly greater extent than positive and uplifting, but always of the kind that makes an emotional impact. And while I have described a fair deal about instruments and arrangements, the one element that, in truth, carries this album and elevates the overall impression is the lead vocals of The Captain himself. He has a strong voice with a fairly good range, from what I can tell, he knows his way very well around adding emotional impact to his lyrics, and he has what appears to be a pitch perfect voice control throughout. At times with breathtakingly surprising results, cue a song like Fat Freddy's Fingers, both the album cut as well as the revisit of it in one of the hidden tracks that appears at the end of this production. As for the use of hidden tracks, I'd prefer if the captain separated such excursions into an unnamed track for future occasions, or plain and simply included them in plain sight. In this case they are of a high enough quality to merit a proper inclusion, and it is ever so slightly bothersome to "enjoy" the six minutes of silence between where the final album track concludes and the first of the four hidden tracks begins.
Conclusion. Those fond of acoustic music and folk music should find this debut album by the Captain Of The Lost Waves project to be a charming encounter. A certain affection for vintage jazz and cabaret music will probably be required, as well as a certain taste for an artist that does explore such kinds of music in a subtly innovative manner. But if this description strikes a chord with you, and you tend to favor such material featuring a high quality lead vocalist, then chances are high that this is a CD you will enjoy.
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