Poet and the DreamerAlbum |
British swinger’s Coral-assisted turn towards pop.
British crooner Neville Skelly's deep, lambent tones and penchant for old-school balladry recall Sheffield singer Richard Hawley. But where Hawley started out as a member of Pulp, Skelly's lifelong devotion to the Great American Songbook found him fronting a full-on swing-style big band. On his first pop album, Skelly manages as convincing a volte-face as you'll ever encounter. Backed by Liverpool's The Coral and co-writing with the band's James and Ian Skelly (no relation, though they've previously been misreported as Neville's cousins), the one-time jazzbo fuses ‘60s pop, folk, and country flavors alongside carefully chosen covers by Jackson C. Frank, Dion (from the Bronx bomber's hippie-folkie era), and others. Most telling is Skelly's take on "Eleanor Rigby." That he tackles it at all is indicative of his long-view perspective: a rocker of his generation would probably never go near it, considering it either sacred ground or merely overexposed, but to Skelly, it's simply another beautifully crafted tune to be picked from the eternal tree of song, just like a Tin Pan Alley standard. Like Jack Jones cutting "Yesterday" or Bobby Darin loading up an album with Tim Hardin tunes, Skelly brings a classic balladeer's bearing to rock-era songs. Equally striking is that Skelly's originals maintain the momentum; he's not necessarily a budding McCartney, but "Will She Hold Another," for instance, could easily have come from the same songbook as Poet's two Dion compositions. There are miles of melancholy in Skelly's silk-and-brandy baritone, and it's time for the world to start catching up.
|Neville Skelly: Critical Connections|