Michael Armstrong

Michael Armstrong 


So here we have a set of recordings put together with the musical input and assistance of country rock axeman supreme Albert Lee, ace musician Phil Palmer, sax legend Ed Barker, Hollies lead singer Peter Howarth and longtime JLTT guitar favourite Elliott Randall…yes, the six-stringer who played on Steely Dan’s ‘Reeling In The Years’, dear departed Kirsty McColl’s funky ‘Walking On Madison’ and led the wonderful rock fusion band Randall’s Island (who I swear had a sax player on a unicycle when I saw them open for John Mayall and Harvey Mandel….and I’ve never touched a recreational drug). The songs are melodic, organic in instrumentation, catchy, memorable….and so you may well wonder at this point ‘What part of Laurel Canyon does this guy reside in? Is he still around and touring etc?

HOWEVER the composer and performer of all these radio-friendly songs lives in Surrey and is relatively young..how has the classic songsmith gene taken such a grip on this creative chap? The answer of course is sustained listening to the music that’s always gotten to him. And happily this isn’t pseudo-American or trying to be, the music simply has a rich classic vibe to it and the subject matter is entirely Armstrong’s own. I bet he spent as much time listening to The Beatles, James Taylor and Billy Joel in his earlier days as I did hearing Captain Beefheart and Spirit. It has to colour your output, learning from the best…

When Armstrong – who plays piano and guitar – tackles the Joel song ‘Allentown’. He’s not content to reproduce Billy’s edition. Rather, he sits inside the song and takes it easy. Of course the lyric applies anywhere in the world, any place. Beautiful and free of syrup.

Lead cut ‘Johannesburg’ is apparently autobiographical, delivered in a much more tuneful Elvis Costello style. It sounds like it’s been around for years! Randall spins out a brief yearning solo on the Telecaster. The sax cuts in…the effect is certainly an Anglo Steely Dan sound. ‘Innocence of Men’ has Albert Lee aboard and an airy country chug for a tempo. I must talk to Mike about Rodney Crowell, he has such a similar melodic touch.

‘The Contented Man’ is more reflective and the sax gives it a mid-Atlantic linear vibe. Only our pal Leo Sayer has quite this touch, the guitars are gritty enough but Armstrong doesn’t have to battle his arrangements, they are assembled just so.

‘Back To Work’ has brisk acoustic guitar chording and a restrained backdrop. Maybe the best lyric on the collection. A ‘Norwegian Wood’ tempo is used on ‘Iris’. I can’t figure out what the song is about! ‘Paler Shade of Blue’ has more of that crisp Randall electric guitar over George Harrison tumbling changes and a great chorus.

Strings are well employed on ‘The Radio Years’ which again sounds like a 70s radio staple, you expect it to segue into Gerry Rafferty.

The only other version here finds Michael singing McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, which Rod Stewart used to do sometimes back in the days when I was often at gigs by The Faces ( Rod would sneak you in to the private ones, once he knew you, happy days)

‘Mrs Patterson’ is a mid-paced story song with Beatlesy guitar figures; ‘So Long She’ is a bit McCartney for me, but it will be someone else’s favourite cut.

57 minutes is too long for an album, but every song here is crafted and listenable. A fine debut, indeed.


Michael Armstrong Album Cover

Pete Sargeant

Michael Armstrong’s debut self-titled album is out now. In addition, Michael will be touring the UK extensively in 2015 and 2016 on the following dates:

Saturday, 22nd August, 2015 (Peter Howarth Unplugged), Pizza Express, Maidstone, Kent (Box Office: 0845 6027017) http://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/maidstone

Tuesday, 8th September, 2015 (solo acoustic), The Ramblers Rest, Chipstead, Surrey www.theramblersrest.co.uk  

Wednesday, 9th September 2015 – (with Leo Sayer), Birmingham Jam House, Birmingham  www.thejamhouse.com

 Thursday, 10th September 2015 – (with Leo Sayer), The Lowry, Salford www.thelowry.com

Friday 11th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Worthing Assembly Hall www.worthingtheatres.co.uk 

Saturday 12th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Chequer Mead Arts Centre, East Grinstead, (Box Office: 01342 325577) www.chequermead.org.uk 

 Monday 14th September 2015 – (with Leo Sayer), Grand Theatre, Lancaster www.lancastergrand.co.uk 

Tuesday 15th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Princess Theatre, Hunstanton www.princesshunstanton.co.uk 

Thursday 17th September 2015 – (with Leo Sayer),  Saint Andrews Hall, Norwich www.standrewshall.co.uk

Friday 18th September 2015 (with Leo Sayer), The Opera House, Buxton www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk 

Saturday 19th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), The Brunton, Musselburgh www.thebrunton.co.uk 

Sunday 20th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Rothes Hall, Glenrothes www.onfife.com/venues/rothes-halls 

Tuesday 22nd September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), City Varieties, Leeds www.cityvarieties.co.uk 

Wednesday 23rd September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Grand Pavillion, Porthcawl www.grandpavilion.co.uk

 Friday  25th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), The Hippodrome, London www.hippodromecasino.com

Saturday 26th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer) The Playhouse, Harlow www.playhouseharlow.com 

Sunday 27th September 2015 – (with Leo Sayer)The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes www.stables.org 

Tuesday 29th September 2015  – (with Leo Sayer) The Gala Theatre, Durham www.galadurham.co.uk 

Thursday 1st October 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), The Shanklin Theatre, Isle Of Wight www.shanklintheatre.com 

Friday 2nd October 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), The Concorde Club, Southampton www.theconcordeclub.com 

Saturday 3rd October 2015  – (with Leo Sayer)Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne www.tivoliwimborne.co.uk 

Sunday 4th October 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Apex, Bury St. Edmunds www.theapex.co.uk

 Tuesday 6th October 2015 (with Leo Sayer), The Hippodrome, London www.hippodromecasino.com 

Thursday 8th October 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Robin 2, Wolverhampton www.therobin.co.uk 

Friday 9th October, 2015 – (with Leo Sayer), Bewdley Festival

Saturday, 10th October 2015  – (with Leo Sayer) Picturedrome, Holmfirth www.picturedrome.net 

Sunday 11th October 2015  – (with Leo Sayer), Pyramid & Parr Hall, Warrington www.pyramidparrhall.com

Friday 16th October 2015  – (with Vonda Shepard)  Pizza Express, Maidstone, Kent, (Box Office: 0845 6027017) http://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/maidstone 

Saturday, 17th October 2015 – (solo) Epsom Playhouse, Epsom, Surrey (Box Office: (+44) 01372 742555 / 742227) www.epsomplayhouse.co.uk

Thursday, 22nd October 2015 –  (with Vonda Shepard), The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes (Box Office: 01908 280800) www.stables.org 

Saturday 24th October 2015 – (with Vonda Shepard), Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham, West Sussex (Box Office: 01273 464440) www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk 

Sunday 25th October 2015  – (with Vonda Shepard), The Pheasantry, Chelsea, London www.pizzexpresslive.co.uk 

Monday, 30th November 2015 – BBC Sussex & BBC Surrey Community Heroes Awards, Gatwick Plaza

Saturday 19th March 2016  – (Solo/headline) The Dugdale Centre, Enfield http://www.enfield.gov.uk/millfield/homepage/4/dugdale_centre

Wednesday 1st June 2016 – (Peter Howarth Unplugged) Epsom Playhouse, Epsom, Surrey (Box Office: (+44) 01372 742555 / 742227) www.epsomplayhouse.co.uk

Saturday 4th June 2016  – (Peter Howarth Unplugged) The Dugdale Centre, Enfield http://www.enfield.gov.uk/millfield/homepage/4/dugdale_centre

Sunday 5th June 2016 – (Peter Howarth Unplugged) Cleeve Tithe Barn, Cheltenham http://www.cleevetithebarn.org.uk/open_news.htm

Tuesday 7th June 2016 – (Peter Howarth Unplugged) Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury http://www.marlowetheatre.com/ 

Friday 10th June 2016 – (Peter Howarth Unplugged) Chapel Arts, Bath http://www.chapelarts.org/ 

For more information visit: http://www.michaelarmstrongmusic.co.uk/