Tarry awhile goodly ladies and gents, allow me to regale you with tales of a fine fellow, Marc Atkinson, a musical bard of some little known renown. He peddles his calling among the taverns and the greens of the villages and shires in the North of ye olde England.
Yet the most foulest pestilence has struck this very year and taken his livelihood. Bereft of coin with mothballed pockets and naught but a hard boiled sweet gathering the corner fluff within, our goodly troubadour finds himself on his uppers.
But this stout and hearty fellow is not one to sit and wallow, watching spiders weave webs across the holes in his jeans, with a fair maiden in support he rises to the challenge. Plying his trade from his own abode, across the digital platforms, he reaches out to those who would listen. His audience swells and spreads worldwide.
And whilst entertaining us all, he lifts us from the spectre of the plague and raises our spirits as high as the sky, we look longingly at through our windows.
Not content to pleasure us with live lounge performances, our balladeer has thrown himself into his studio with gusto, lyrics and sweet music flowing like a rippling brook, onto his hard drive. Such is his enthusiasm, it blossomed from a single disc of original material to a double album, the second containing his own arrangements of some favourite songs by other lauded artistes.
It seems only fair, after his meticulous efforts, to take a closer listen and observe with our ears. Black & White was recorded at his Tammarc Studio, engineered, produced and mixed by the man himself. After many hours perfecting them to his satisfaction, his lovely partner Tammy running quality control, it was mastered by Dave Clements. This is a very well produced couple of discs.
Let us appraise Disc 2 (White) first, and meander through a few of the tracks…
Covering tracks from other musicians is always personal choice, and like anyone, there are some tunes on this disc I would not normally listen to by the original artistes, but Marc has such a warm, emotive voice that he could sing the Yellow Pages and I would listen. The songs have been re-arranged to suit Marc’s smooth vocals, making them almost feel like he wrote them himself. Some are more well known, others a little more niche. The disc opens with Elbow’s One Day Like This, it’s a version to make Mr Garvey proud.
Everyone will have their favourites. For me, I love Marc’s renditions of Marillion’s When I Meet God, which he freely admits is one of his favourite songs of all time, and he almost surpasses the original, as with with Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, one his most requested covers. Marc is a modest soloist on guitar but his clever use of E-Bow on some tracks really enhances and lifts them. He also does a fine job on an abridged version of Transatlantic’s We All Need Some Light.
Marc ends the disc with a track covered by many musicians, not least the angelically voiced Eva Cassidy – a daunting task when up against such pedigree. His version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I am most happy to report, doesn’t disappoint. May I recommend, to appreciate fully, listening at volume in the open countryside on a sunny summer’s day to be the most pleasant of pastimes.
Picking out these tracks does not detract from the others, as all thirteen are wonderfully covered and to Marc’s credit, I never feel inclined to skip tracks. Each listener will no doubt have their favourites and I shall leave it to you fine fellows and winsome wenches to decide for yourselves which warm your cockles on a cold evening.
Having sampled the desserts of our fine banquet first, it now behoves upon me to devour the deliciously mouthwatering main course that is Disc 1 (Black), and savour every morsel.
A Part Of Me was influenced by the live-stream gigs Marc has been doing from home during lockdown, a welcome to everyone who has watching each week on his Facebook page, and a brief introduction of himself. As with many tracks on the album, Until We Meet Again references the current situation and this year’s effects on everyone. This was actually the final track Marc wrote for the album, almost last minute. He wanted to have an upbeat feel to it, looking positively forward to the days we can all get together again and celebrate life, in whatever normality we have.
Brave the Storm is the anthem and first single. Marc’s ‘Lockdown Song’ encourages us to stay strong with the tag line that appears on the Lockdown t-shirt (available from Marc’s website), “Keep Your Hope Alive!” Uplifting and inspiring, it raises the spirits.
The Change is a shout out to all the change needed across the globe, and now’s the time with all that is happening due to Covid-19 in the Year of Lockdown. “Put your hands up”, he cries; you can put them together for another great track. The effects lockdown has had on all of us are reflected in Over and Over Again. The monotony of routine, confined spaces and dealing with it day in and day out play out as we watch the days tick by until we can venture forth into the world again.
Marc will tell you he is not religious, but he is spiritual. Wherever he places his faith, No More Days in the Sun is a timely warning. We should heed what is happening and learn to make a better world before it is too late. I can only agree, I’m not ready to meet the end yet, however it comes.
Like the majority of Marc’s solo material, You Don’t Know I Know is a personal reference. The act of betrayal, someone’s done him wrong, how best to deal with it? In a song of course, how else? No names mentioned and clever lyrical word play with a catchy tune, this has become a real earworm and one of my favourites. True Love is one for the hopeless romantics among us. This heartfelt plea for reciprocal love and professed undying adoration will surely get many requests as the first dance at weddings in the future, as is Safe and Sound, a gentle love song for Tammy, expressing Marc’s feelings and baring his heart, promising he will always be there. To Show How Much I Love You is another written for the delightful Tammy, upbeat, catchy and bundled with love, this radio-friendly ditty shows how much he loves her.
Pink Things is a tribute to the other lady in his life, his beautiful daughter Enya, a very talented young woman with hopefully a very bright future. I’ll take this moment to congratulate Enya for the album’s wonderful artwork which suits the subject perfectly. I (and I’m sure many more) look forward to seeing how she uses her musical talents and artistry in the future.
A departure from the usual source material, The Book comes as a lovely surprise. Not only does this fantastical song conjure up visions of faeries and dragonflies living in a land where love conquers all, it is also a reveal that Tammy is writing a book of such a place, set in the picturesque surroundings where they live. It’s a beautiful song, another of my favourites; as a fantasy artist myself it fires my imagination. I also look forward to hopefully reading the book when it appears.
I could get quite emotional about Lifeline. I feel this song reflects just how nice a bloke Marc is. Bands sometimes write about their fans, but this track feels very personal. Written to say ‘thank you’ to those who have kept Marc going, spiritually and financially, staying afloat and keeping the wolf from the door. Marc has put his heart and soul into this song, to show how much the support means to him and the family. I can think of no finer way to end the album.
Born from the womb of a poisoned world, nurtured, moulded and raised against the odds, this album can truly be called a definitive album of 2020. It’s as close as Marc can get to a solo album and he has used what is potentially the hardest time many have faced to create a flickering candle we can all hold against the gloom.
For those who have not heard Marc previously, where have you been? Check him out, he is one of the great unsung singer/songwriters in this country with a wonderful voice. A lovely album, from a lovely bloke, with a lovely family. For any lovely person who wants to listen and love.
Keep your hope alive.
Disc One – Black (Original Songs)
01. A Part Of Me (4:30)
02. Until We Meet Again (2:47)
03. Brave The Storm (3:15)
04. The Change (3:25)
05. No More Days In The Sun (5:11)
06. You Don’t Know I Know (3:44)
07. True Love (4:19)
08. The Book (4:44)
09. Safe And Sound (3:19)
10. Over And Over Again (2:31)
11. To Show How Much I Love You (3:17)
12. Pink Things (3:10)
13. Lifeline (5:31)
Time – 47:43
Disc Two – White (Cover Songs)
01. One Day Like This (Elbow) (3:43)
02. Somebody To Love (Queen) (4:01)
03. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) (3:46)
04. Memories (Maroon 5) (3:07)
05. These Are The Days Of Our Lives (Queen) (3:27)
06. Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel) (2:43)
07. The Power Of Love (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) (5:02)
08. We All Need Some Light (Transatlantic) (3:22)
09. Fall At Your Feet (Crowded House) (3:09)
10. Here Comes The Flood (Peter Gabriel) (3:25)
11. Many Of Horror (Biffy Clyro) (3:28)
12. When I Meet God (Marillion) (4:28)
13. Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Eva Cassidy) (3:49)
Time – 47:30
Total Time – 95:13
Mark Atkinson – Lead & Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, E-Bow, Bass Guitar
Tammy Atkinson – Additional Vocals (Disc 1: 5,7,8 & 13; Disc 2: 2,4 & 9)
Record Label: Tammarc
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th September 2020