Updated: Aug 24
Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝙎𝙪𝙧𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙙 𝘽𝙮 𝙇𝙤𝙫𝙚 - 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝘼𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙣
Charles refuses to go…
I am somewhat known for my regularity. Without fail and without the need for prodding, poking or coaxing, I will deliver another instalment of my column (article/piece/chunk). But this has been a weak week. I have become irregular. Things have stopped working and come to a standstill. Let me explain.
Usually I lead a relatively comfortable life. But this past week I have been decidedly uncomfortable. Usually I would pity the down-and-outs, but this past week I am actually quite envious of them being able to go not just down but also out. Work has been a struggle. But so has standing up and sitting down. Most of my life is pointful sitting down, but lately this has been the pointless variety. Let me explain.
Texture in food and drink is a much underrated thing. We all talk about the taste, but so much of our love for what we consume is down to texture. Nothing worse than a soggy batter. Or when someone sits on your packet of crisps (potato chips, for you Americans), as they're pulverised into crumbs. Melted ice cream? Now that's a sad thing. Think how cold water thinly and willingly trickles down your throat on a hot day - could you imagine if it was like treacle? With all these victuals, the taste remains the same, yet we would be so disappointed and unfulfilled. Despite being fully filled. It's all about consistency. Let me explain.
This past week I have been drinking an awful lot of water. More than usual. And eating an awful lot of prunes. All in a vain attempt to alter my inner consistency. You see, I was naturally being thick, which is unnatural for me. These days, diet is both talked about ad nauseam and completely ignored. Mine - a decent and relatively healthy one - has not changed. And yet, here I am, unable to go. Otherwise perfectly healthy. But this lack of peppy motion is also accompanied by other uncomfortable symptoms. What an absolute pain it all is. I hope you get the picture by now without me having to vulgarly spell it out all over the place. Not that I’m able to.
Sitting on a different seat to usual while I wait and try and inevitably fail, has allowed me to ponder perhaps even more than usual. I thought more about consistency, and realised the lack of it these days. Or perhaps things are just as consistent, but not in the most ideal of ways. If we look to public services, we see the demise of the term “service”. The National Health Service (for those who have one) leaves so much to be desired, that I haven’t even bothered to contact them about my "predicament". They will inevitably and predictably fail. Their consistency has plummeted. The police force is an absolute joke and almost non-existent, to the extent where crimes are not even being investigated, let alone solved, or even (heaven forfend) prevented! What about the lighter side of life? The quality of fresh vegetables? The design of a modern lamppost? The hames they made of repairing that pothole? No consistency whatsoever. Or rather, perfect consistency: consistently poor.
And then there’s music. The ‘one hit wonder’ rarely means that the artist only released one song. They simply only released one GOOD one. Which doesn’t sound great when put like that. Yet when picking an artist out of a hat, most people can only name one or two (or at most, a handful of) great songs. In a nutshell, this is lack of consistency. They might release a humdinger of a track, but then release a bit of a stinker. The following one might be pretty good, but not as good as that initial one. Up and down and up and down. Not consistent. And ultimately you get bored or frustrated and move on, in the hope of finding someone with a little more quality control - something Spotify drastically lacks (but also something Spotify cannot really do). I just don’t understand why artists cannot be more discerning and honest with themselves. “This one’s not great, I think I’ll dump it” or "It's a great song, but the sound isn't good enough". There’s nothing wrong with that. And frankly there’s everything right about it. Especially with the millions of competitors these days. It’s been said before, but be the best version of yourself, at all times. Not just occasionally. It seems obvious, but it is pretty rare. It’s the very reason why everyone has different favourites by The Beatles. They may have variety in genre, but not in quality. For me, The Beatles are the epitome of consistency. Even if you don’t love it all, you have to admire their quality control. In the words of Reverend Lovejoy, "It's all good". The very best business model is to simply give the people what they want, and they will flock.
Which neatly brings me to my song of the week. By an artist as regular as I wish to be right now. Please welcome King Consistency himself, Mr. Rich Allen, with his latest single, Surrounded By Love. The New Artist Spotlight’s Top 20 Show often has recurring songs that voters evidently adore. But quite often it is that one song, rather than that one artist. Meaning, although that specific artist may have released 15 songs, it is only one (or perhaps 2) of their songs that sees repeated entries in the chart. This might suggest a consistency problem. It might also suggest that the general public simply adores that song slightly more than their other songs. Rich Allen, however, doesn’t have this problem. I don’t know if this means he is discerning, or if it is simply that he is incapable of anything less than greatness. But whatever it is, the boy done good. “Period” (vulgar term). Florida’s finest is more than fine. He is FIIIINE! And just like with The Beatles (ahem), everyone seems to have different favourites. So many of Rich’s singles have spent a significant chunk of time in the NAS Top 20. I shouldn’t imagine Surrounded By Love to be any different.
The song starts with a caffeinated chorus of claps as his usual backing singer, Emily Coomber, throws us that quintessentially rich wall of harmony - fast becoming a vital part of Rich’s sound. But before long, the whole band is engaged. Guitars, bass, drums, OWgan, all sounding as rich as Rich himself on vocals. Speaking of which, he has always managed a certain maturity and experience in the sound of his vocal delivery, but this time there is something else. Something that has been there in the past, but not nearly to this extent. Confidence. It is so far from arrogance, and more like modest assurance and knowing pride. There is something casually sexy about his delivery - which is more than I can say for the Royal Mail, where there is simply no delivery at all! There is a glowing ray emanating from the face of this golden boy, as his pearly whites twinkle with charm rather than smarm. Something rather magical, like he is the chosen one and he knows it, but doesn’t want to gloat. I think it could be the smile. An audible smile. Rich is so good at portraying a vast variety of emotions and temperaments from sad to happy to cheeky and warm. From cold to bitter, delightful and torn. This time we have that safe feeling. Safety with a smile, concealing nothing untoward or misconstrued. Simple honesty is all, and all he ever means or wishes. One of the nicest guys in town, basically.
The smoothest OWgan and rolling bass supply blood to the backbone of the drums. Rich liberally dishes out the melodies as the guitars counter-attack with every vocal reload. But just 38 seconds in, the celli/cellos arrive as umpire, just in time to calm a llama down. It’s like smooth, exciting velvet! Enter, chorus. Pure high, courageous comfort! The song is called Surrounded By Love. Which is exactly how I feel by the time the first chorus comes around. But then we get something akin to a post-chorus. Something I have only really heard from NAS artist Skinny Dippers. This time the fencing duel is between Rich and the Emily army. Rich shows he means what he sings by pushing his jaw forward, as if to give the microphone an “oh YEAH??” - it’s a spurs-on moment. But Emily continues on as if to say “I know, I’ve heard it all before”. She is the brandy to his temper - “Simmer, my sweet prince. I feel the same. Hush now, we have all night”. Which sweeps us into verse two with the wings of an angel. And so, up we go, to the clouds of a loving Heaven. There is no competing; no repost. All is switched on, but all is mellow, in the way that traditional lightbulbs used to glow their warm hue. Incandescent by its very nature. It is at the point of the second post-chorus that Rich really transforms from a heated filament into his fiery element. He rips up the stage like a true rock ’n’ roller, setting the scene for the firework display that is the brief yet explosive guitar solo to come. Our third and final verse takes a sadder turn, so clear in the tone of his voice (he really is so good at that), to the extent that this could be sung in a foreign language, but it would still be obvious to us. Inevitably though, Rich manages to sweeten the mood both in music and words. He would never dream of leaving the listener unsatisfied.
Continuing with the theme of last week’s fade out, Rich does indeed repeat the chorus, pretty much to the end of the song. But instead of a fade, there is something somewhat unusual. The whole song has a very live feel and sound to it. As if you are in the studio with the band. The end of this song sort of gives the impression of you opening the doors of the studio to leave while they’re still playing, and then slowly walking down the corridor towards the exit, while the band continues to play in the studio. At least, that was what I was trying to achieve when mixing it. Just something a little different. Either way, it was such a joy to co-produce and mix. I love working with such consistent artists, in order to make great poop music. Ahem, POP music.
Please, no get-well-soon pity messages in the comments (I will indeed get well soon). This ain’t about me. This is about Rich and his song.
I feel pregnant. I’m probably not. But for now, Rich is my baby.
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