Johnny Unicorn — Angels in the Oort Cloud
(Bandcamp no#, 2014, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-08-05Having heard Johnny Unicorn's previous recordings, Sweet Edith Manton, Thinking Hard to Overcome Nervousness, and Sadness and Companionship, and then seeing him as a full time member of Autumn Electric, I wondered what would become of his solo career. I need not have worried: the Autumn Electric experience seems to have spurred him on to greater levels of creativity, and Angels in the Oort Cloud is his best release yet. Angels starts out with "Angels," a 16-plus minute epic of multiple sections, from gentle acoustic guitars to thunderous riffs, with varying tempos and time signatures, but all flowing naturally from one section to the next. Max Steiner (also from Autumn Electric) provides some ripping lead guitar, and Naomi Adele Smith (another AE compatriot) fills in some keys and vocals; Jason Campbell (not from AE) plays drums, and there are occasional trumpet (Eric Padget) and flute (Ashley Miller) parts; Unicorn himself fills in everything else. The rest of the album consists of a number of shorter, more straightforward tunes, though all have the Unicorn twist that makes them stand out from more pedestrian fare, in spite of them being plain old "rock songs." There's a lightness of touch, a sense of humor backed by a sly wink that simultaneously mocks and pays homage to classic progressive rock. And to end it all, he gives us "Inertia," which he describes as "a long folk song with lush arrangements," and it's a stunner, with beautiful melodies and a tender pastoral mood based around some nice acoustic guitar. It builds slowly with its triple beat, adding flutes, backing vocals, and finally the electric guitar, and then breaks into a fast section reminiscent of a classic Jethro Tull tune, before ending with a recap of the main theme. Lovely stuff all around. Unicorns are alive and well in Seattle, and making some extraordinary music.
Related artist(s): Johnny Unicorn
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more