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Charlatans - Wonderland


Review: Jack Foley

A SURE contender for one of the albums of the year, Wonderland effortlessly manages to combine the best of the old with some interesting glimpses of the new for an album of sheer brilliance.

Tim Burgess (complete with a new, higher pitched voice) and co have teamed up with the likes of Danny Saber to really turn the traditional sound on its head, helping to broaden the band's appeal while certainly never alienating the hardcore Charlatans die-hards.

There are so many high points on the album, it is hard to pick out individual moments; suffice to say that you will be hooked from the first listen and continue to be amazed as it keeps getting better.

Opening track, You're So Pretty - We're So Pretty is typical of what to expect - combining elements of former tracks such as My Beautiful Friend (in its guitar rift) with the newer, fresher sound, plus some nods to the Rolling Stones (surely one of the band's many musical influences).

Elsewhere, we have the single, Love Is The Key, which maybe represents the most radical departure; or the sublime I Just Can't Get Over Losing You with its moody, melancholic, but gritty back beat. Counter this with the sweet A Man Needs to be Told or the spine-tingling And If I Fall, which demonstrates the full range of Burgess's new vocal styles, and you have the perfect mix of styles for a truly great album.

If you like the Charlatans, you will love this. If you've written them off in the past, then it's time to rediscover them. But whatever you do, make sure you give Wonderland a listen. It is destined to become a classic.

Paul White's view...

THIS time the boys have put together an LP of 12 of the best tracks of their career. The Charlatans have gone all out and come back in fine style with a new, more dance style beats and country collection of tunes.

You're So Pretty - We're So Pretty is the first track on the LP. Tim breaks through the beats with his usual laid back, drawn out vocals. The B-line really cuts through this tune and drives it along, as does the drum track.

Listening to the LP, you can hear traces of The Stones and Dylan coming through, which is no bad thing.

Judas plays on a more dance-style tip; big bass lines and some nice stabs on the hammond are two of the elements that really beef this tune up.

Burgess uses some falsetto vocals which cuts it to the Grade A man and no mistake; very reminiscent to Jagger in his heyday. It just goes to show the Charlies have got more than just a hammond as their backbone, which brings me on nicely to the first single, Love Is The Key.

Funky, dance-floor filler, timeless, and the Charlatans at their most melodic and classic, this is the first time the Charlatans used a girl for backing vocals and they roll along nicely and give it some sweet melody. The breakdown (middle eight) breaks and builds superbly with Burgess giving as much vocal attitude as the first time they played Manchester Boardwalk (stylin).

The LP is jam-packed full of a mix of influences they have picked up along their journey as one of our country's finest.

Bell and the Butterfly takes you on a fanfare ride of beats and breaks. This is the only instrumental on the LP and cuts it with the best of them.

Wonderland finishes off with Love To You, a very personal tune to Burgess lyrically, as all Charlatans songs are. This, I think, more than most.

He sings of leaving and moving far away (LA to be precise) and his father's concern of hardly ever seeing his son. But love will keep them tight.

The Charlies, even though they have experienced a lot of problems - death, manic depression and being portrayed as being dead and buried by the press before they had time to grow - have pulled another classic LP out of their 'sac magic' and wow the world one more time.

Happen to die, never!

Track listing:
1. You're So Pretty - We're So Pretty
2. Judas
3. Love Is The Key
4. A Man Needs To Be Told
5. I Just Can't Get Over Losing You
6. Bell And The Butterfly
7. And If I Fall
8. Wake Up
9. Is It In You?
10. Ballad Of The Band
11. Right On
12. Love To You

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