However you get your fix when listening to music; 8 track, tape, CD, download, streaming, for me there has to be more about it than just a perfect sound, it is about the package as a whole. The tactile feel of it, the look of it, the connection…and, of course, the sounds created on it. These are exactly the reasons why I prefer vinyl for my music, it’s music for the soul and a product with heart, with feel.
When you buy a great album and for the first time see the cover and the artwork, way before you investigate the sounds held within, when that cover makes your heart skip a beat, you know, you just know that it’s going to be one of those beautiful albums, one of those forever albums.
When my eagerly awaited vinyl version of the new album by Robert Jon and the Wreck; Last Light on the Highway finally arrived the connection was instant and sure enough my heart skipped a beat.
The title of the album and the wonderful artwork worked so well together. One of those paintings, like a masterpiece by Lowry where it poses questions…Why? Where? What are they saying? It depicts a band van that’s pulled over; one of the band members laid almost under the van, changing the tyre. The others look on, one holding a torch, another with a headtorch. There are cases at the side of them and we can tantalisingly see inside the van. All of this under the most gloriously painted night sky with a galaxy of stars almost painting their road ahead when they restart their journey….
How can you not want to find out what this album is all about now?
To my ears, this band is one of those rare beasts that hasn’t put a musical foot wrong throughout their career with each album getting better as they take that journey and now they have a lot to live up to continue that progress.
Savouring the moment I slip the black silky shiny disc from the sleeve and holding my breath waiting for the moment the needle drops for the first time, on the first track, ‘Oh Miss Carolina’ and right through to the last note on side two, from the second part of the title track ‘Last Light on the Highway Pt2’ this is a wonderful journey and that artwork, that title becomes ever more poignant.
Each song is a perfectly timed piece of magic with every song bar the last coming in at less than 5 minutes but whether it’s the briefest of songs or the longest you want more, they are all over too soon. They might well be radio perfection and a DJ’s dream but when a song leaves you wanting more you know it’s good.
When you listen to Robert Jon and The Wreck the musicianship is never going to be in question, they always deliver and they do so again on this album – in spades!
The rhythm section holds the collection together so well and as you’d expect with this band the guitars are off the chart good, soaring when needed, soulful and playful in equal measure. With the keyboards giving so much beautiful depth, whether it’s an urgent and velvety organ or delightfully light piano – the incredible ‘Tired of Drinking Alone’ underlines all of that. Shining through all of this outstanding musicianship is the most beautiful, rich soul angst-ridden vocal and some of the most finely crafted lyrics you’ll hear in a long while. You really do feel the pain in this song and you know this tune, in particular, wasn’t written on a whim, this is real. Something you feel in every song, every groove on this album.
Just when you’ve recovered from that, ‘Do You Remember’ hits you again with soul, southern rock, and an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and pathos for lost years. You need the next two tracks, just to lift you ever so slightly and they both have a slight uplift in tempo and right on cue. Both ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ and ‘One More Time’, the guitars…oh sweet baby Jeebers…those wonderful guitars. The pain and anguish is still there but there’s more of a lift to vocal too and urgency.
There’s a feel of that throughout a lot of songs on this album, a feeling of lost love, of apologies, of lost opportunities and one more chance. A hope of rekindling what has been lost and you cannot remain detached from this album, I DEFY you to remain detached and it comes back to my opening comments, you connect to this whole package, if you don’t then you have no soul!
This is an album of perfection, or near perfection and it’s one I liken to albums like Sunburst Finish, Led Zep 4, Hotel California, and one or two others. From the cover to the music, and just as important; the layout of the music, like those classics, this album is perfect. I’ve mentioned it before in reviews – the layout of the tracks is so important if you’re going to take a journey with a band and an album. They nailed this and with the two parts of the title track ‘Last Light on the Highway pt1 and pt2’ I think they may also have nailed the best track(s) of the year.
There’s a long way to go this year and some big album releases to come but this is a serious contender for album of the year, the bar has been set.
If you’re already a fan of Robert Jon and the Wreck, you know how good they are, if you’ve never heard them but love soulful, southern rock that reaches into your chest, grabs your heart and wrings out every last drop of emotion, then you owe it to yourself to buy this album and when you do, sit with it a while, gaze upon it, caress it, hug it, listen to it and fall in love with it.
Robert Jon and the Wreck – Last Light on The Highway is out now via www.robertjonandthewreck.com.