The Turning of the World is the latest venture from the multi-talented Peter Jones’ Tiger Moth Tales project, and as usual he takes a different direction on this release after his previous album, the Prog imbued A Song of Spring. Pete describes this release as a ‘companion piece’ to his intensely personal and reflective grand piano based The Whispering of the World, from 2020. The Turning of the World is a mostly acoustic collection of pieces imbued with touching personal memories, reflections on loss, concerns about ‘an ever-changing world’ and, in contrast, testaments of love and positivity.
The album was written mainly on acoustic guitar, an instrument Pete used for songwriting a lot more before his ventures into progressive rock. This appears to have been a rather therapeutic exercise for Jones who, when faced with anxieties and a feeling that the world is increasingly insane, turned to a simpler, more grounded instrument he associates with simpler times to write new songs. Clearly, basing songs on an acoustic guitar greatly influences the ‘feel’ of this album. Therefore, eccentric excursions into humour and more ambitious forays into Prog are absent as Pete chooses to draw us in with largely acoustic melodic songs of engaging simplicity. It almost feels like we are in a pub or around a campfire with Pete and his guitar, his great voice and his gift for melody and words so vividly painting pictures and evoking feelings.
The Getaway is a short sound effect intro of the busy, hectic world going on around us before it calms to more pastoral noises, and then suddenly a sax break (rather jarringly for my taste) brings us into The Turning of the World. The rather gentle acoustic sound of this track belies some rather acerbic observations about the state of the world, and the nature of public discourse.
Pete Jones has a great knack for conjuring evocative images with his lyrics, and this is beautifully characterised in the wonderfully warm nostalgia of So Wonderful to be Alive. This lovely song jangles along brightly, showing great little vignettes in Pete’s life, including car rides with his grandfather, teenage drinking sessions listening to pop songs and his wedding day to the beautiful Kimberley. If those images don’t make you smile, then check for a pulse.
Grief is the price of love, and this album is filled with songs that touch on such love. We’ll Remember is Pete’s tribute to his friend, Big Big Train singer David Longdon. This touching song, written soon after David’s tragic death, starts with a melancholy whistle and is raw with emotion. It also features Christina Booth and Rob Reed of Magenta on backing vocals. Pete felt that as he had worked with Magenta and David Longdon on the 2015 version of Spectral Mornings (which they played live with Longdon in 2019) that it seemed apt to have them on the song. This song and memory is altogether more poignant because Booth and Reed were also with Pete Jones preparing for their annual Acapela gig near Cardiff when they heard of Longdon’s passing, devastating them all. Indeed, it fell to Pete to inform me of this sad loss when I arrived at the venue. You can hear all that feeling in this touching, gentle song.
In a similar vein of remembrance, but in a very different style, is the smoothly melodic pop of Pass it On, which Jones has shared is about how the memories of those that have passed on live on in us. Pass it On mentions the much-loved local butcher in Jones’ village, and his grandparents. Family is clearly important to Pete, as shown in the moving You Reached for My Hand, about his father’s serious illness last year. The beauty of such songs is the touching and evocative scenes described so simply but with such vivid feeling:
I don’t think we’ve held hands
Since I was nine or eight,
It’s just not a thing we do,
But you were reaching for a lifeline,
And I was reaching too.”
How many of us have sat by the sick bed of a loved one, hoping and praying it will turn out well? Thankfully, Pete’s father recovered, but that terrifying experience underlined the love of family which goes so often unsaid, but is shown in other symbolic ways.
Another strand in this album, to counterbalance some of the more sombre moments, are the songs of positivity and celebration. The Beautiful People of Munchwald celebrates the people who arranged and came to two memorable and clearly joyous house concerts in Germany, and it swings along brightly with rhythmic horns and happiness. It’s not deep or meaningful – just fun, like those evenings I suspect. Make a Good Sound is similarly light and optimistic, a song about getting the most out of life, with a subtle reference to staying true to oneself. The final song is the deeply felt love song to his wife which Peter says he felt he just had to say on this album. This lovely lilting song describes how he feels about Kimberley, and that whatever happens as the world turns he will always have her, “And if you’re here with me, that’s all I need today”. It’s not clever or particularly poetic – it just feels totally true, and that’s what really counts.
The two songs which really stand out for me on this delightful album are those which tell a little bit more of a story. Pete has shared that The Lock Keeper is based on a poem one of his friends wrote about meeting the titular keeper on a school trip (reflected in the lovely cover photo). The song takes that basic image and expands upon it, reflecting on the disappearance of some trades and jobs with the rise of automation and AI doing what people used to do. This is decidedly NOT a Prog album, but there is one more extended song which for me is its pinnacle (and not just because it’s a bit longer! ????). The Snail, The Horse and the River is a beautiful nearly nine-minute reflection on darker times and how nature in small ways can unexpectedly touch us in our despair and shed some light into our lives. This is no rock epic – it’s just Pete, his piano, drums, keyboards, his melancholic melodica and his great voice evoking memories with words and melodies. Pete described the first verse about the snail as “about when one of my pets died when I was younger. I went into my garden where the pet was buried, and felt a snail moving under my fingers. Somehow it reminded me that life is going on, and it made me feel better.” The second verse finds Pete a lot older and depressed about the state of the world when he meets a man with a horse in the street:
And though I had nothing to offer, he seemed not to mind,
His mane was warm to the touch, his inner peace seemed to say to me
‘Friend, there’s still goodness left, in this world to find.'”
The third verse is about getting lost on the way to a pub (which Pete jokingly admits is easy for a blind man!). However, he then hears the sound of the river which reassures him he is heading in the right direction – the river flowing on as the world keeps turning.
These little vignettes sound very simple, but Pete poetically uses them to reflect on the world and his life. I say simple, but that does not mean to say it is easy – it really isn’t at all. Peter Jones has a great ability to focus on small events and mould them to great effect in his songs, giving new insights into the world around us and about ourselves. It is well known that Pete is totally blind, so it feels all the more remarkable that a person lacking the sense of sight is so able to conjure up very visual images in our imaginations. These are enhanced by other senses, such as the tactile feel of a snail or the sound of a river flowing – this is a songwriter who engages all the senses with his lyrics. The final verse of this outstanding and affecting song characterises the special ability of Tiger Moth Tales to take the ordinary, mundane or seemingly trivial, and imbue them with meaning and emotion.
Somewhere I can’t describe, but it’s part of you and me…”
In 2020, The Whispering of the World was the most emotional and personal album of Peter Jones’ career, showing a different side to his character and talent, and I can see why he has described The Turning of the World as a ‘companion piece’. The style is very different, but once again Pete has revealed his thoughts and feelings with such poetic clarity, and performs with such sensitivity.
The Turning of the World is a truly delightful album straight from the heart, laid out in enchanting melodies and beautiful simplicity. Sometimes that’s just what we all need:
01. The Getaway (1:00)
02. The Turning of the World (6:29)
03. So Wonderful to be Alive (5:43)
04. The Snail, The Horse and the River (8:43)
05. Try (4:51)
06. We’ll Remember (7:31)
07. Pass it On (5:21)
08. The Beautiful People of Munchwald (3:28)
09. You Reached for My Hand (2:29)
10. The Lock Keeper (3:10)
11. Make a Good Sound (3:45)
12. All I Need Today (4:13)
Total Time – 56:43
Peter Jones – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Drums, Percussion, Melodica, Whistles, Saxophone, Zither
Robert Reed – Backing Vocals (track 6)
Christina Booth – Backing Vocals (track 6)
Record Label: White Knight Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th October 2023
• Cocoon (2014)
• Story Tellers, Part One (2015)
• Selling England for a Pound (Genesis Covers) (Download only) (2015)
• Live at the Borderline (Official Bootleg) (Download only) (2015)
• Peter Jones Plays Genesis – Seven Stones Turned (Download only) (2016)
• Live at Summer’s End (Official Bootleg) (Download only) (2016)
• The Depths of Winter (2017)
• The Mad Mothster’s Tea Party (Official Bootleg) (Download only) (2017)
• Story Tellers, Part Two (2018)
• A Visit to Zoetermeer – Live (2020)
• Still Alive (2020)
• The Whispering of the World (2020)
• A Song of Spring (2022)
• Spring Re-Loaded (2022)
• A Visit to Oxfordshire (Live) (2022)
• The Turning of the World (2023)