TAKIN' AIM Album Review - Pennyblack Music Magazine (18/7/13) www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk
"Emotively powerful second album from this London-based singer-songwriter."
London-based Andy Fleet follows up his 2009 debut ‘The Night Falls Fast’ with a set of ten original songs, upon which all the music has been composed by Fleet but six of the songs have been completed with other lyricists.
A couple of Fleet’s admitted influences are immediately recognisable; the brace of opening songs both show Fleet’s obvious appreciation of the music of Tom Waits and Donald Fagen. The New Orleans feel of ‘Who’s Gonna Be Sorry’, complete with horns supplied by Andre Canniere, immediately (and oh so wrongly it transpires) has the listener thinking that here’s another competent sweet-voiced troubadour pedaling the perfect soundtrack to a lazy summer afternoon. The following song, ‘At the Bottom of the Pool’, with its muted horns adding atmosphere in the distance, is where Fleet shows his, admittedly more accessible, Tom Waits influence. It’s where Fleet makes a more than acceptable stab at being the Tom Waits anyone can like, not just those who like their singers to gargle with whiskey-soaked pebbles.
By track three, ‘Get The Boys Round’ Fleet shows that he can also play the pop game with the best of them. It’s an intelligent radio-friendly pop-rock track with uplifting guitar from Nick McNulty, and shows that, while Fleet’s heart lies solidly in a jazz/blues hybrid, he can turn his hand quite successfully to adult pop music too. It is a fact born out by ‘Tender’ as well. Fleet’s breathy vocals are well suited to this ballad. While not a singer who has a particularly distinctive voice, Fleet’s vocals do get under your skin quite quickly.
‘The Beast’ with those distant horns adding much to the atmosphere, is an ode to the Port Of Hamburg. It’s on this song where Fleet pulls it all together, his, at times, almost whispered vocals adding a menacing feel to the story as the music builds; it’s one of those songs where you are taken right into the artist’s world, where he places you in directly in the picture and it has a chilling effect.
‘Alpha Female’ and ‘Tick All The Boxes’ both display Fleet’s jazz influences and both are excellent pieces of music, superbly sung and performed and displaying again just how much trumpeter Andre Canniere adds to Fleet’s cinematic sound.
While most of us can’t even begin to understand how Fleet and his wife, Emma, feel after losing their first-born son James (the track on Fleet’s debut album, ’54 Candles’, depicted the devastating experience) Fleet has composed a further two songs in his son’s memory, which quite frankly, leave the other songs on ‘Takin’ Aim’, as solid and brilliant as they are, in the shade.
The short, piano-led ballad ‘James’ with its lone brass features a stunning vocal performance from Fleet. His voice, although showing obvious and expected emotion, never shows signs of faltering once; some achievement. The same can be said about the closing song, ‘Brave Little Soldier’. It’s doubtful if any other song has captured pain, loss and eventual anger so powerfully as Fleet does here. While not for a second suggesting that we can feel even a fraction of what Fleet went and is going through, his words and the power of the music make the listener feel at least a part of his pain. It’s a remarkable and powerful way to end the album and one that, given the last verse of ‘Brave Little Soldier’, will stay with you for a long time.
Andy Fleet has made an album of songs that will make you smile, feel good and ultimately cause you to shed a tear or two. It’s all there, what else do you need?