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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Noel Gallagher

High Flying Birds

Review by Mark Johnson

Noel Gallagher needs no introduction to fans of the world famous, multi-platinum, Manchester, UK band Oasis. He is the former lead guitarist and vocalist of the band, and also the elder brother of fellow band member Liam Gallagher. When Oasis split on 28 August 2009, following a fight between the Gallagher brothers in a backstage area, Noel announced he had quit the band. Liam took off on his own to work with former Oasis members, Gem Archer, Andy Bell, along with Chris Sharrock andJeff Wootton, to form the band Beady Eye. I reviewed that album already here on the Music Street Journal. I am fortunate enough to get a chance to review this, the first solo album from Noel Gallagher.

The album is excellent and a great start, (if Oasis is really over), for Noel’s solo career. Noel combines the Beatles sounds everyone loved with Oasis with the influential style of Ray Davies, once of his idols. You can read my track by track review below. The accompanying DVD includes a great documentary style, narrated by Noel of the “making of” the album, along with the music video for the song, “The Death of You and Me,” and the making of that same music video.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Everybody’s On the Run

This opens with powerful lyrics which reflect the feeling many have had during the global economic slowdown. The lyrics and driving vocals are juxtaposed to a steady solid rhythm and beat which prevent you from following the downward spiral referenced by the lyrics.  You can feel the freedom to examine and experiment with new ideas and create a unique sound from this opener. Noel even adds a cough to kick things off. The powerful strings and orchestration, as well as Noel’s echoing vocals, surround the soundscape and help add great dramatic effect. Then he delivers the optimist’s chorus: “Hang in there love /You got to hold on / ‘cause everybody’s on the run.” The choir – like voices add another power layer to this masterpiece. The string support brings back memories of some of my classic favorites.

Dream On
The second cut helps capture the tough spirit of the album’s release year. Then some Lennon is referenced for effect, “Watching the wheels go round and round,” before the elder Gallagher helps get us through it all with the reminder, “Dream on, was that songbird singing?” The surrounding melodies and orchestration continue to fill the volume of sound available to the listener. Close your eyes and listen to the track a couple of times to catch all the subtle rhythms hidden under the lyrics.
If I had a Gun...
Here is a standout track that may have been in the designs for Oasis, had the brothers and band come back together. Luckily he didn’t wait, and instead, gave us this ballad now. It features some of the best lyrics on the album and the kind of ballad we all remember from Oasis. The music supporting is symphonic and full of enough emotional support for the deep lyrical content.  He opens and closes with an excellent refrain, “If I had a gun I’d shoot a hole in the sun / And love will burn this city down for you.”
The Death of You and Me
This is the best song on the album for me. There is a supporting video for this track as well, included with the digi–pack.  This will bring back memories of Oasis, and their heroes the Beatles, but I like to look at it from a different direction. The decidedly New Orleans flavor of the rhythms and melodies, including some stomping drums and plenty of great horns gives it that Mardi Gras feeling. The lyrics are fantastic on this track, as well.  This may be Gallagher’s answer to the Kinks, “Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon.”
(I Wanna Live in a Dream In My) Record Machine
The cut opens with the sound of kids playing in the park. Symphonic strings rise and flow in support, just like an Eagles – Hotel California…or dare I say an Oasis production. This is another of the best lyrical songs on the album.
AKA...What a Life!
In the making of the album DVD included with the digi – pack, one of Noel’s favorite parts of the album seems to be the four tracks that begin with this number. Taken as a group, the songs are definitely inspired and do, I think, provide an alternative sound to the music he was producing with Oasis. The lyrics to this track are excellent, “Someday you might find your hero / Some say you might lose your mind.” The music bounces airily along to the beat and rhythm of more optimism left over from the last track. The guitar work brings back good memories of U2 and the Edge.
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks
In some of the first previews I read about this album, years ago, I remember Gallagher talking about the influence of the Kinks and Ray Davies. In the making of video, accompanying the digi – pack, he mentions it again. The song “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” helps brings the influence of that sound to fruition. The solo horn and surrounding orchestration provides that reminder sounding perfectly British, circa the 1960s. The lyrics reflect the reference point of the Kink’s track “Village Green.” “All the people on the village green have gathered around their TV screens, to hear the government about to speak.” This is a great song helping to recapture that image of England when the Kinks were growing up and then bringing us right up to date with a 21st Century spin. It’s a great example of standing on the shoulders of your heroes.
AKA...Broken Arrow
This opens with solid drums and excellent guitar licks, before Gallagher’s vocal enters. This features stellar lyrics set to a wonderland of music.
(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach
Here is another of the best tracks on this album. When you sit down to write your first solo album, you want to make it memorable. I’m sure you have many ideas up front, but Gallagher really dug deep for the ocean of sounds he created to fill this disc. This one is full of many of the sounds and size of an Oasis track. The closing ocean waves, so Quadrophenia-like, take us out over a classic British rock-filled beach.
Stop the Clocks
This was a song Gallagher wrote back when he was eleven. It has taken until now for him to finally release it in full form, because he felt something was always missing. Sure there have been numerous You Tube versions, but according to him, this is the real deal. It is an ocean sized closer to complete his first solo album. It features great Manchester grinding machine like drums and guitars, with Noel singing in the background as wonderful keys and orchestration fills the air. But the key to completing this track was the awesome guitar solo delivered by one of Noel Gallagher’s favorite guitarists, Paul “Strangeboy” Stacey.
 
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