- Catalogue No: MCCD001
- Release Date: 2018
- Format: Compact Disc
Press Releases usually rely on objective brevity, with focus on a third party’s potential. I’m too wholly self-absorbed to even half consider someone else’s belly button. And yet here I am, reluctantly confessing that I know and love Marcus like a brother.
That familiarity is reason enough for me not to blow smoke up his arse.
Our twenty-odd year musical relationship as Miracle Mile has been notable for straight talking. Usually along the lines of ‘turn the vocals up and the bass down’. I don’t always get my own way. Marcus’s method is strong, silent, but insistent. Insistent that every element should serve the song.
With such empirical selflessness, it’s inevitable that Marcus’s pragmatic approach sets ego aside for the betterment of his experiments in sound. No surprise then that I long ago christened him ‘The Scientist’.
An illustrious past has seen Marcus riding shotgun for the lofty likes of Mark Knopfler, Al Green, Tasmin Archer, Rod Stewart, Steve Earle, Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris. As a bass player: rooting, holding things down, just out of the spotlight, helping to refine and define the work of others. Now, here he is, stepping out of the shadow and into the sun, to record his first solo album, ‘Heard’.
How would he find his own voice? How would he choose to be heard? There’s always industry afoot with Marcus. Characteristically, the first thing he did was to deconstruct and reconstruct a guitar or two until he found one that he could hone enough to love; a battered but bettered Fender Telecaster. He then applied that same enthusiastic hands on approach to his amps: his beloved boxes. Ironic that ‘amped’ is often defined as ‘manic nervous energy’:
‘I’ve loved Robben Ford since the day I first heard him back in 1980. I’d always wanted a ‘Dumble’ amp like his, but as the elusive Mr Dumble became more elusive and stopped building amps the prices rose to $200,000 and beyond. So, what to do? I taught myself how to build tube amps, found a technician’s schematic of Robben’s, and built my own version’
He plugged his customised Tele straight into that homemade amp and thus, with a strict ‘no pedals’ caveat, Marcus found his sound.
And the music? What about the songs? When you have the chops to take a composition in any direction how do you set a course? I can’t speak for his inspiration but I reckon there’s a lady, a dog and a lot of Yorkshire at the heart of these works. And ‘works’ they are; much graft and application surely invested.
What’s striking therefore is the effortless elan: a fluidity and grace at play that’s elegant and urbane, yet unfussy and direct. Marcus offers a sweet lyricism too, one that’s as modest as it is confident. You hear not just his voice, but his accent: a sure sign of authenticity. There’s jazz, rock, blues and a dash of delicate soul on show, but if you want a banner I’d plump for ‘Heart Music’.
There’s a sanguine muscularity in his sure touch that sets the blood pumping. There is, too, an unmistakable undercurrent of melancholy in the shimmering chords and languid melodies that speaks of losses perhaps too personal to articulate. No gruff Yorkshire bluff; Marcus would surely wear his heart on his sleeve if his sleeves weren’t rolled up. And whilst he’s not trying to break your heart, his wholly humble heart does just that.
Marcus made ‘Heard’ to be seen; to give us something to remember him by. Job done: seen, heard, never to be forgotten. There’s rough magic here, more art than science. Perhaps it’s time to re-christen ‘The Scientist’ as ‘The Alchemist’.
|01 Where Are They Now|
|02 Tokyo Lament (for Martin)|
|03 Intake Express|
|04 Ups and Downs|
|05 Blues for Walt|
|06 I Put a Spell on You|
|07 The River Man (for Steve)|
|08 Three Brother Strut|
|09 The Other Side|
|10 People Get Ready|
|11 West Croydon High Life|
|12 Waltz for Luce|