It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was sitting here watching as Don Draper reclined in his chair to The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and now I’m listening to Ghost Pal cover that song as the lead track of their new EP. Is Revolver the most culturally relevant album of all-time? I can’t say for sure, but it is my favorite Beatles album-and that makes it pretty great.
What I like about the Ghost Pal version is that they capture the sound of the song without copying it. The fact that’s the Beatles created This song in the late 60’s is astounding. I’m not a record producer, but I have to think that even making some of that stuff happen in 2012 isn’t easy. This version gets a lot of help from a strong sax by Henry Kandel and embellished organ laying a foundation for Oliver Ignatius to build around. Ignatius has always had a Lennon-ish voice, but he doesn’t play it up too much here. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a song that is very easy to mess up. Ghost Pal gets it right.
When I first heard the second track on Extended Family, “Wildebeest Song,”I really liked it. Now, hearing it again, I love it. There’s something about the way the vocals remain out front while the other instruments creep in and get louder and louder just sounds fascinating. The horn section again provides much of the depth while the piano chimes in with fun flourishes.
“Understanding Song” brings a more somber pace, with Ignatius singing in a lower register than we are used to hearing. This is the simplest song on the EP, but it has a great ending starting about thirty seconds before the finish where vocals are layered on top of one another creating a huge chorus.
On “It’s The Real Thing!” we get our first real taste of proper guitar in the forefront. The opening fingerpicking lasts through the whole song, with Justin Coles’ banjo played over it, culminating in a orgy of sound that would make Clint Mansell proud. This one definitely requires multiple listens. It’s a complex tune, musically, and the story in the lyrics will knock you over. Then, out of nowhere it twists into something completely different. It’s strange and great all at once.
The final track of the EP brings us to the infamous Nathan Jones. Fans of Ghost Pal know that their long-awaited LP, Nathan Jones Is Dead, has been pushed back so many times Dr. Dre is like, “Seriously?” Well, as of today the record is slated to be released in the summer. If this song is any indication of what we’re in for, color me excited.
It’s a cover of The Supremes hit song, but you’ve never heard it like this. It’s a broken relationship ballad sung to Nathan Jones, with Ignatius playing the role of Jean Terrell, Justin Coles as Cindy Birdsong, and Josh Barocas as Mary Wilson. There are some good lyrics to hear on this one, written by Leonard Caston and Kathy Wakefield:
“If a woman could die of tears, Nathan Jones, I wouldn’t be here. The key that you’re holding won’t get in my door. And there’s no room in my heart for you anymore.”
There’s a sense of desperation in the vocals, and you can feel the longing though the speakers. It’s a great way to end the EP and introduce us to the character Nathan Jones that we’ll be hearing more about soon enough.
I’m not gonna lie, any time I see an email or get a message from Oliver, I get a smile on my face. He’s one of the musicians I will trust blindly. He’s got great instincts and a knowledge of composition that people twice his age envy. Over the past year he’s produced no less than four great records for other people. Now it’s time for him to focus on his own material.
Other musicians appearing on the record but not mentioned above: Carson Moody on drums and vocals, Alexandre De Silva on electric guitar, Dominic Coles on organ, harmonium and sleigh bells. Though I didn’t highlight their work, the contributions they made should not go unrecognized.