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When Martin was still in the process of  writing and planning this album he had intended it to be his Jazz album. Martin had been writing increasingly on piano and was developing a bit of a jazz style to his playing. Also around that time Martin had met a singer called Richard Shelton who was appearing on Ned click to go to cherry red's pageSherrin's BBC  radio program, Loose Ends, with him. Richard is a singer and pianist who was making a bit of a name for himself, at the time, as a singer of torch songs, and a good impersonator of Frank Sinatra on stage. Martin agreed to try and write some songs for him. One of the outstanding tracks on this collection was written with Richard in mind. Grenadine & Blue is a timeless Jazz standard just waiting for the success it deserves.  However somewhere along the way Martin lost interest in making this a pure jazz album and some pop songs sneaked in. .
This album was written and conceived during a period of terrible emotional and mental upheaval for Martin and this can be felt in the lyrics of a few of the songs. Jacqui in particular. Jacqui could be a kind of sequel to The Duchess Of Lelandia from Radio Autumn Attic. It is a great song, one of Martin's best and a great performance. Don't go getting the idea this is a miserable album though, I don't think Martin is capable of that. It is studded with joyful songs and comic songs that compare with any Martin has ever done. It's the usual mixed bag but with the emphasis a little more on production and playing quality than before and perhaps Martin playing more to his age group, with references that someone his age can't help but respond to. 
All credit must go to Nelson again for the sheer quality of the recording and production on this album. He and the guest musicians really believed in this project and it shows.
Available for download at Cherry Red

 

Songs :- Blackout / Trinity Square / Jacqui / My Lost Weekend
The Sun Over The Yardarm / Grenadine and Blue / Wait for the Rain
Sparkletown / After The Boy Gets In /Venus Of The Essoldo 
Rosebay Railway / Synergy / Little Trinity

Musicians :- Martin Newell, Nelson, Paul Rutterford, Grahame Andrew 
and welcome back Giles 'Giles' Smith 

 

Amazon.co.uk review... Mmm nice., November 9, 2004 
Reviewer: paul_a_murphy from Chislehurst, Kent United Kingdom
For those of you familiar with Martin Newell's music may find the sound of this album initially to be a bit of a departure from the usual crisp, janglesome, guitar-based pop for which Newell is so rightly admired by those who know. From the cover and the title onwards it looks as if the Wildman Of Wivenhoe is in easy-listening, casual mode. Certainly there's been a lot of talk on the Newell website forum (www.martinnewell.co.uk) on the difference - or not - in musical direction of this album. Has Martin forsaken his beloved Rock? Has he in fact - gasp!- 'gone jazz'? 

Nah! What we have here is a classy pop album. Jazzy, sure, for being heavier on the keyboards than it is on guitar and there's a looser, swinging feel to the tracks thanks to a wonderful rhythm section. But anyone who enjoyed, say, 'Straight To You, Boy' on The Greatest Living Englishman will know that Martin Newell is no stranger to what George Harrison called "the posh chords": jazzy clusters of notes that can sound by turns sly, smooth or sentimental, without ever ladling on the syrup. Here, 'Rosebay Railway' in particular has a beautiful, autumnal feel to it within 10 seconds, 'Synergy' is a great 'lost' 1920s Tin Pan Alley song, and the breezy shuffle of 'Venus Of The Essoldo' has a brisk, not-entirely-hidden Berlin cabaret decadence (albeit closer to home!).
Lyrically it's classic Newell. It's not for nothing that he has carved out an eminent parallel career as Britain's most published poet when his song lyrics can run from touching paeans to a woman getting older and looking all the better for it (Jacqui), through to an frank, endearing come-on directed at a woman who looks better with the light off (Blackout). Familiar themes abound - the seasons, the romance of the railway - and of course the joys/perils of booze and relationships - all delivered in Newell's distinctive, youthful, occasionally cocky, but always committed vocal tones. 
Compared to Martin Newell's more 'traditional' output, you'll find this album more of a light programme, indeed - and as such it'll take more than one listen to grow on you. But as growers go, you'll find its roots go pretty deep after about the third listen... 

By James Christopher Monger, All Music Guide (excerpt) Martin Newell returned to the world of music in 2004 as a ock & roll defector. Light Programme, his fifth collection of original solo material, is a 13-track tapestry of jazz-pop filtered through the eyes of a Charles Dickens misfit. The once heralded The Greatest Living Englishman has cut his street-preacher hair, thrown on a pair of shades, slung a sports coat over his shoulder, and created a surprisingly fun batch of self-penned standards. That's not to say that it works, but Martin Newell's self-deprecating wit, magnetic personality, and amiably imperfect voice give each song a warmth and a wink that would make any listener want to throw another log on the fire, pour a glass of brandy, and share in some stimulating conversation with likeminded freethinkers. Martin Newell's idea of jazz is far more "When I'm Sixty-Four" than it is "Love Supreme," and standout tracks like "Trinity Square," "Grenadine and Blue," and "Sparkletown" -- the latter owes a great deal to the Dixie agtime of Good Old Boys-era Randy Newman -- continue to revel in his lifelong love of the gas-lit London streets of old, but Martin Newell's become a bit more cosmopolitan these days, and Light Programme is his attempt to replace those musty wicks with light bulbs. 

 

Dan BoydenScottsville, Virginia USA Although I am a Martin Newellite, I did not go out to buy his new album right away. I am one of those people who opens gifts slowly, savoring the
surprise and not wanting the joy of the mystery moment to end too soon. So, I had my missus put it under the Christmas tree for me. And that might be the problem with Newell altogether: he writes in an era when, more than ever, the public (read that, record companies) wants instant oatmeal sloshed on their plate with tablespoonfuls of sugar, cinnamon and other teeth-rotting confections. Then they want to retreat to the lavatory of creative music, purge in the toilet, and return for the next helping of junk.

Newell's latest music can't be purged that quickly. It can't be gobbled up like worthless cotton candy. And it cannot be marketed easily. It confounds the suits who want the next cardboard cutout to place in the record store window. With "The Light Programme," he's really thrown them for a loop. On the liner notes to "The Spirit Cage," he claims he does not play jazz because "I am not good enough." But here he infuses the music with jazzy overtones. Although he is a pop-meister unparalleled, his close
cadre of fans was “warned” about this shift in style. For the most part, "The Light Programme" takes a few listens to warm up to, but the first three tracks grab you right off. "Trinity Square" is sweet...it could rot your teeth quite easily with its melody. "Jacqui," on the other hand, is a tear-jerker for anyone with flowing blood who listens.

I suppose that you could have wrapped this collection in a plain brown wrapper and not credited the artist anywhere on the package. Then record companies would be saying: "Wow, who's this guy?" But they'd still be looking to categorize it (jazz...light pop) like they need to do for the marketing mavens. Also, I suspect that rock critics would say things like "a departure from the standard Newell canon that doesn't have the 'pop' of past Newell" and "Newell approaches middle-age with an identity crisis." You know, they'd write the standard pabulum they script to make them sound like authorities who can climb into the mind of the artist, the way Sister Wendy climbs into the minds of great painters. But, as Frank Zappa said, "Rock critics are people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk and writing it for people who can't read." Zappa was the quintessential musician for people with a brain, and Newell, although he doesn't tread on the musical territory that the late Zappa did,
also makes music for people who think.

"The Light Programme" is a departure from the standard Newell "formula." However, it is contradictory to assign a “formula” to pop music. That’s what makes it pop music. I mean, I like The Spirit Cage’s “A Smashing Bird Called Brenda” as much as “The Boys of September.” The fact that they’re both on the same album doesn't throw me for a loop, and I didn’t think that Newell was going ballad-crazy on me or something.

But Newell indicates on his web site that the new album is not doing well. That’s a pity. It is also typical fare for him. He distributes albumsthrough a small record company called Cherry Red, who doesn’t have the clout of Sony. You know, I remember the trials of XTC when they had their
problems with Virgin records; I thought one of their best works was the last album they made for Virgin, entitled “Nonsuch.” Yet it was not promoted and fared poorly. Newell knows all too well that the quality of the art has NOTHING in common with sales. If that were true, Britney Spears would be
produced by George Martin and be entering her LSD-infused psychedelic phase; but she ain’t no Beatles!

If you like variety in your music, then buy “The Light Programme.” If you like melody, then listen to it. And if you, like me, fancy lyrics as well, then buy it, listen to the songs, and read the liner notes. His wordplay is great. On the other hand, if you don’t want to open the mind to this disk, and are looking for edgy guitar pop, then maybe his next album will work for you. He says he wants to do a more guitar-oriented, raw-sounding album next time. Maybe then, more “experts” will write their opinions on the work of this underrated writer. Me? I’ll just keep listening.



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