by Alex Lucas
Now, it may be Christmas, but everyone already knows the classics. So this month we’ve reviewed two albums to give yourself a short break from Jingle Bells and White Christmas, although one was technically a Christmas number one – so, Merry Christmas!
Ezra Collective – Where I’m Meant To Be
November served up some fantastic LPs, out of the blue, Sault (mentioned in last month’s edition) released five brilliant albums all at once. The Cambridge-based Cavetown also released a top drawer album in ‘Worm Food’, and legendary rapper Nas released the excellent third instalment in his ‘King’s Disease’ series, definitely check all of those out. But, for me, November’s best offering came from Ezra Collective, in the form of ‘Where I’m Meant To Be’. The jazz quintet follow up 2019’s well received ‘You Can’t Steal My Joy’ with this marvellous 14 track jamboree.
The album kicks off quickly, with a few buoyant tracks, the opener is peppy but equally rich in its production. The following two tracks keep the pace high as the album reaches ‘Welcome To My World’, the fourth track, a perfect conduit to transition the record into the more mellow cuts which pack the middle of the track list. This is by no means a lull, the varied yet consistently vibrant instrumentation on tracks such as ‘Togetherness’ and ‘Smile’ keeps the album engaging. ‘Love in Outer Space’ closes the record with a gorgeous vocal performance from singer-songwriter Nao. The range of ideas and sounds on the album lend themselves perfectly to each featured artist, Ezra Collective and all of the collaborators dovetail to create a spectrum of sounds and moods which are perfectly crafted to make this a fabulous listening experience.
For any vinyl lovers, this is a must, I shall certainly be adding it to my collection. If you’d like to catch these guys performing, they’re on tour in the UK in February of next year, they have a show at the Brixton Academy on the 24th as well as 3 more dates further afield in Glasgow, Bristol and Manchester.
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles posted four Christmas number one singles in the 1960s along with six Christmas number one albums. This Christmas will mark 55 years since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sat at the top of the tree; during a 27 week stint there. This album has received endless plaudits since its release, and is always in lists of the greatest albums of all time, often near the top. The Beatles had produced numerous hits and LPs up until Sgt Pepper’s that were great collections of songs, but this LP was revolutionary. For those who prefer an album as a body of work with a consistent idea or thread, where songs appear as chapters in a story rather than standalone tracks, a lot of thanks has to go to Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
This is not to say the songs aren’t enjoyable, they’re all sublime. The album’s doors open with the title track, to introduce Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, who will be performing to the listener for the next 40 minutes. Along the way each track offers something different, whether it’s ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ the catchy second track or the raga inspired ‘Within You Without You’. The crowning track, ‘A Day in the Life’ perfectly caps the record, as one of the greatest closing tracks of all time.
This was The Beatles’ most immersive record until this point, the ambient sounds of the audience serving as bookends for the show. Arguments will always exist about the fab four’s best record but it’s undeniable that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band absolutely deserves its place at the top table of classic records, its impact cannot be understated. A masterpiece.