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Anthony Strong - On A Clear Day (Review)

Anthony Strong, On A Clear Day

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

OFTEN billed affectionately overseas as ‘The English Gentleman’ or ‘La Classe Britannique, Anthony Strong has thus far achieved some of his biggest success overseas, especially in France and America. But his latest album could change all that.

A collection of classic songs given a contemporary big band treatment, complete with big brass sections and the jazz style that has become synonymous with Strong, this takes on everything from early Stevie Wonder and Motown through to Michael Jackson and Cole Porter.

In doing so, it showcases Strong’s own inimitable style – a smooth, jazz-infused voice that has helped garner comparisons with a young Harry Connick Jnr, but which also remains resolutely his own.

Admittedly, the selections do lend themselves well to the big band makeover and there’s nothing as striking as, say, Paul Anka’s take on Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

But it’s an effortlessly enjoyable collection of songs that Strong has been arranging, composing, band leading, orchestrating and producing himself over the past two years.

Hence, his take on Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground could have been his from the start given the polish it’s been given, complete with some fantastic brass interludes. While his take on Elvis Costello’s Baby Plays Around sounds hopelessly romantic in spite of its bittersweet lyrics.

The album is arguably at its very best, however, when stepping up the pace. Hence, That Kind of Guy is a toe tapper par excellence that benefits from some truly swinging brass arrangements and a slick back-beat, while out and out highlight Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough merges the cool sound of David Holmes with jazz piano and more slick beats. It’s effortlessly cool and a really great makeover.

Just occasionally, the big band sound becomes a little over-worked and the album could use more ‘risks’ like Don’t Stop. For as classy and accomplished as tracks like Use Me and Whatever Lola Wants are, they lack that something special that helps to elevate the LP’s highlights.

That said, On A Clear Day remains consistently engaging and nicely laidback. It’s an easy record to kick back and enjoy, or have as a background to a sophisticated dinner party.

Download picks: Higher Ground, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, That Kind of Guy

Track listing:

  1. On A Clear Day
  2. Whatever Lola Wants
  3. As Time Goes By
  4. Nothing Like You
  5. Unforgettable
  6. The More I See You
  7. Higher Ground
  8. Baby Plays Around
  9. That Kind of Guy
  10. When It Moves You
  11. Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough
  12. Use Me
  13. What Is This Thing Called Love?
  14. The Outgoing Administration