Seven songs. So, does that make this a short album or an EP? I’ve decided, personally, that, in the same spirit of The Divine Comedy’s “A Short Album About Love”, a piece of work that was written and recorded with equal intricate care and attention, it qualifies as a short album, but does it really matter? What is actually important is that, whatever you want to call it, we have seven newly recorded songs by Eastbourne songsmith David Ford and they’re all top notch. Fulfilling something that had been on his wish-list for a while, David has recorded “The Arrangement” with a string quartet, working with cellist Nicole Robson to compose interesting and inventive scores for the four string instruments to complement and colour the songs. Those fans who have attended David’s shows over the past couple of years will perhaps recognise quite a few of the songs on this release and, if they share my opinion of them, will be extremely pleased to see them available to own and enjoy, time and time again… and presented in such a beautiful way. There are six Ford originals and a cover version of Oscar Brown Jr.’s sixties soul gem “The Snake” (popular on the UK Northern Soul scene in the seventies), which David makes his own with a typically expressive and delicious vocal performance.
“The Arrangement” features a nice balanced mix of songs and people who have particularly enjoyed the bittersweet compositions David excelled in during the early days of his solo career will love “This Will All Count For Nothing”, “Fireworks”, “One Of These Days” and “Morning Is Broken”; you could almost call these songs classic Ford. “This Will All Count For Nothing” is a beauteous piece, more than a little weary and jaded, with a reserved, understated vocal line and an interesting choice for the album opener. “Fireworks” is a more bright, straight-forward sunny ballad, but it’s a corker, brimming with uplifting chord changes, chiming tubular bells, and the kind of romantic realism that David can’t seem to help but express; the sentiment and the song are gratifyingly heart-warming. “One Of These Days” is a song I have wanted to hear recorded, ever since I heard David perform it with dizzyingly talented New Jersey singer-songwriter Emily Grove almost a couple of years ago. It is an achingly gorgeous piece and the studio recording has captured the pain and vulnerability of a broken love impeccably, providing the same emotional punch that caused a moistening of my eyes during their live performances. There is a hint of the songwriting style Leonard Cohen, or perhaps even Neil Diamond at his most introspective, on “Morning Is Broken”, with a piano performance reminiscent of seventies Elton John; irrespective of any discernible influence, it’s a great piece.
The final track, “O’Sullivan’s Jukebox” sees David imagining himself in a parallel universe as a barfly in an Eastbourne pub which closed down shortly after he started frequenting it as a young man. Imagining that the pub had stayed open and he had spent all his time and money in the place instead of living the life that he has, it’s a funny and entertaining listen, with a characteristic swipe at the investment bankers who play with others’ money. On an album full of excellent songs, it’s excruciatingly difficult to pick a favourite, but if I was pressed, I would probably choose “Devil Come Take This Town”; with its thumping percussion, choppy, frantic violin riff, chanting refrain and bluesy guitar, it sounds like the kind of soul-stirring music that emanates from the southern states of the USA, not the southern counties of England. At just over twenty-three minutes long, it is possible that Ford fans will be left wanting more by the end, which comes all too soon, but each one of the seven songs is superb and would be stand-out tracks on any of David’s previous long players. Quality, not quantity, is on offer here, all delivered by some excellent musicians; it’s the kind of arrangement I really can’t argue with.
“The Arrangement” by David Ford is available now, digitally, from iTunes and Amazon. If you’d prefer a physical copy, please visit David’s website.
Andy Sweeney, 30th November, 2014.