Barry Adamson: I Will Set You Free

By Ryan Alex

It took me sometime to realize just how I feel about this album. I really didn’t know what to expect from someone who’s previously played in two very different bands: the jerky punk band, Magazine, as well as the noisey pre-industrial post punk group Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard lounge music coming from my computer speakers. At first, most listeners will probably just pan this as a bad album, and I wouldn’t blame you. There are a lot of things in this album that people will justifiably not enjoy; some of those things will remain un-enjoyable regardless of how many repeated listens you give this album. But fans of Barry Adamson‘s solo work will most likely find this to be fairly enjoyable, emphasis on the fairly.

Something that I found that grew on me was the album’s instrumentals; throughout the album Barry uses many different instruments, almost every song has a horn section, guitar, others feature keyboards and if I’m not mistaken one or two have electronic drums (see “Turnaround” and “Trigger City Blues”). This is not unlike Barry’s other albums, also similar to his previous work Barry does diverge into different styles. As seen in the punky opener “Get Your Mind Right” and the almost electronic intro to “Looking to Love Somebody” (which goes terribly wrong 26 seconds in- listen to the sample and watch the clock). But he doesn’t change the sound up as much or as well as he’s done in the past, most of this album stays in lounge mode, which isn’t the best type of music for Barry’s voice.

Think of a less flamboyant Dr. Frank-N-Furter combined with Tom Jones, but worse than what you’re thinking right now. Some critics seem to really enjoy his voice on his last album Back to the Cat. This reviewer didn’t. I think a lot of what helped garnered that album’s critical acclaim was its well written instrumentals and lyrics. This album unfortunately is lacking in both those departments, not completely throughout, but enough for there to be a significant difference in quality. Also some of the instrumentals sound cheesy and could almost be played at Macy’s without middle-aged mom’s noticing. Ultimately it does not follow up Back to the Cat.

However the instrumentals really accentuated some of the songs such as “The Power of Suggestion” and “Somebody to Love”. Another plus is there isn’t as much singing on these songs and when he does sing it’s not too unpleasant. And it is interesting to hear Barry change things up like on the punkier “Destination” which has a cool dissonant guitar riff (so does “Trigger City Blues”) and okay lyrics. It’s a nice break from lounge music. The lyrics aren’t too bad on this one, but on songs like “Somebody to Love” and “Turnaround” the lyrics at some points sound like they took little thought and focus on love mostly, which is appropriate for it’s valentines day release.

The conclusion I reached after listening to more of Barry’s solo albums is that this album doesn’t stand up to his other releases like Moss Side Story or Back to the Cat, but it really isn’t all that bad. If you’re interested in hearing an album that I guarantee is a change up from what you listen to on a daily basis, this is it. Hey you might even find yourself enjoying it, because ultimately it’s not that bad. Some of it is pretty great actually, but those parts are few and far apart.

Rating: 5.0/10

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