Danny & The Champions Of The World – Brilliant Light (2017)
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The latest studio album from Danny & The Champions of the World is a bumper bundle, Brilliant Light clocks up 18 tracks. It’s testament to the strength of their writing and playing that the quality never dips throughout. As long-time admirers will know, the seven-piece straddle genres, variously drawing on country, folk, rock and soul, though this time round, it’s fair to say that it’s their Atlantic soul influences that, with Siobhan Parr and the Bennett brothers from the Dreaming Spires contributing to the backups, are mostly to the fore.
That said, however, the collection opens with Waiting For The Right Time (the video recently premiered on Folk Radio UK), an upbeat alt-country rock number that, streaked by Henry Senior Jr.’s pedal-steel, has strong shades of both The Band and Ronnie Lane. The only number to be solely written by Wilson, it’s a terrific way to get things going, and the roll continues with the equally musically upbeat rolling rhythm country of Bring Me To My Knees, one of two co-written with James Yorkston, piano barrelling away in the background.
The first of the soul moments comes with the organ-led It Hit Me, which, written by bassist Chris Clarke and John Wheatley, might be described as being built upon a reggae rhythm, but, with those doo-wop female backing vocals and horns, it more accurately warrants comparison to Sam Cook. The same could be said of Danny Wilson’s vocals and the country-soul groove that stretches out across the balladeering You’ll Remember Me and which also mixes in a dash of mellow Morrison. The first ‘side’ culminates with the swelling, Andy Fairclough’s organ driving Swift Street, a highly personal reflective number which, co-written with Polly Paulusma and Carra Bacon, was inspired by three family photographs from the street in Melbourne where his mother grew up and where he spent time with his grandparents.
It’s a full brass ride for the full-sounding southern cooked Consider Me with Paul Lush’s fierce electric guitar run out, the mid-tempo momentum maintained with Coley Point, Wilson’s setting of words by Will Burns, poet-in-residence for nature-themed online literary website and publishers Caught By The River.
It’s 60s soul-time again with the keys and sax-embellished It’s Just A Game (That We Were Playing) and the Lush-penned Staples-soul Never In The Moment, the second leg closing with Gotta Get Things Right In My Life conjuring thoughts of early Neil Young had he immersed himself in a Memphis sound.
Things get southern funky for the horns parping, chugging groove of the lyrically down Waiting For The Wheels To Come Off while the slightly slower Don’t Walk Away (another Paulusma/Bacon co-write) charts a similarly bruised heart mood, throatily sung with echoes of Dylan. The seven-minute Hey Don’t Lose Your Nerve touches on southern country gospel with its backing vocals, Wilson flirting with falsetto flourishes, and again conjuring shades of Van the Man, not least in its sha-la-la refrain. Loose-limbed and counted in, Everything We Need is a shift, introducing a church revival meeting handclapping swing along rhythm, Jerry Lee Lewis boogie piano pumping complementing the organ swirls, while the final stretch opens up a rootsy blues rock seam with Let The Water Wash Over You (Don’t You Know), a jamming feel very much in evidence with the rumbling bass, steel, guitars and organ.
Again evoking The Band in its steady rhythmic drive, there’s more itchy wah-wah funk on the punchy keys and horns-propelled Long Distance Tears, the 80 minutes coming to a close with the second Yorkston co-write, the melancholically reflective pedal-steel coated Dylanesque ballad The Circus Made This Town and, sustaining the musical mood, the soaringly anthemic Flying By The Seat of Our Pants, surely one born to be heard as the sun sets on a festival field with the crowd’s arms swaying and cell phone lights illuminating the night. Deservedly likened to All Things Must Pass in its scope and ambition, this is assuredly their masterpiece, an aural aurora borealis that will illuminate your musical life.