Published on 25th April 2019
Neil Campbell – Last Year’s News
Slightly delayed, but only by a few months, is the concluding part of Neil Campbell’s ambitious ‘Global Flood Trilogy’ album releases. Initially all three titles were scheduled for 2018, however Last Year’s News was slightly delayed and therefore made the late edition, and became this year’s news. Now before I succumb to journalistic witticisms, let’s just backtrack, and recap the overall premise.
The trilogy’s opening gambit The Outsider – News From Nowhere drew on William Morris’ 19th century, utopian socialist novel, ‘News from Nowhere’ and set up the concept with “…the idea of how the world might be reorganised more equitably and ethically following some kind of large man-made catastrophe or natural disaster leaving only a few survivors”. Neil expanded Morris’ concept, so to The Outsider – News From Nowhere, After The Flood and Last Year’s News, he added the caveat of proposing what kind of music musicians might create after surviving such a disaster.
Well if the first two albums are anything to go by, then the future Earth would appear to be a bright, joyous and harmonious place to be. Part one of the trilogy, The Outsider – News From Nowhere, captured this wonderfully, although released in February the album was warm and vibrant and more befitting warmer climes. Perhaps wary of repeating himself across three recordings the second, eponymous After The Flood album was a band affair, and whilst it still retained the essence of part one, it added a different aspect. The burning question therefore is what would Last Year’s News bring to the table.
In many respects Last Year’s News, as to be expected continues the storyline, but, and as Neil alludes to in the liner notes, a more personal album. An album “…drawn into two halves, the first light and positive, and the second half (side 2 if you like) slightly edgier and more introspective”.
The album opens in a bright and breezy fashion and Chi along with The Fat Of The Land reminds us of where we first started this journey, with our protagonist searching for survivors along the coastline.
With the vast majority of tracks lasting just a few minutes, time passes very quickly but don’t let the brevity of these tunes mislead you, as there are hidden elements waiting to be discovered in each and every piece. The gentle chordal structure of Rainbows allows Neil a degree of freedom to stretch out a little, but as always keeping the themes close to hand. The up-tempo Get Reel hints at Déjà Vu, from the previous album, whilst the delightful, beautifully arranged Wish You Were There could so easily form the background to a classic 60s protest song. The mood shifts once again with the bluesy Break The System, nicely underpinned by bassist Roger Gardiner, and once again allows Neil the freedom to improvise.
As mentioned there’s an “A & B” side to Last Year’s News and although not specified, perhaps the edgier side starts with the wonderfully evocative The Reich Of Strings, a nod to minimalist composer Steve Reich. Another composer to have impacted on Neil is represented in the rather splendid, multifaceted and cyclical Tubular Rainbows – I’ll leave it to you to work out who this might be…
Without inferring any lack of depth in the early part of the album, Last Year’s News continues to go from strength to strength, and no better optimised than in the poignant title track, as here Neil returns to the classical guitar and delivers two minutes of utopian bliss.
Although the guitar is a central instrument across the album, we should remember that Neil Campbell is a multi-instrumentalist, so along with drummer Joey Zeb, Missing In Inaction is a dramatic tour de force of multi-layered keyboard sounds and textures, guitars and percussion. The release in tension only arrives with the album’s penultimate track The Gloaming. A droning background infers Celtic pipes, but in equal measures suggests a far Eastern notion. The album draws to a close with yet another delightful guitar piece…
As the track fades we fittingly return to the coastline where the journey began, the gentle sounds of tide and to the distant caws of gulls.
And there we have it, three albums in a little over a year from one of the UK’s seriously undiscovered composers. I’m at a loss as to why Neil Campbell hasn’t been plucked up by an independent, or for that matter, a major record label – but we live in hope.
01. Chi (2:37)
02. The Fat Of The Land (2:33)
03. Rainbows (3:04)
04. Get Reel (2:37)
05. Wish You Were There (2:52)
06. Break The System (3:57)
07. The Reich Of Strings (1:04)
08. Tubular Rainbows (7:09)
09. Last Year’s News (1:53)
10. Missing In Inaction (4:02)
11. The Gloaming (3:28)
12. There, Again (5:10)
Total Time – 40:26
Neil Campbell – Classical & Electric Guitars, Keyboards & Percussion
Joey Zeb – Drums (2,4,8,10 & 11)
Roger Gardiner – Bass (6)
Jon Lawton – Additional Percussion
Record Label: Independent
Date Of Release: 13th April 2019