Now for me personally, Newton Faulkner is also an individual I met when I was child after seeing him perform live at an intimate London music club called The Troubador. I remember that it was just him and a guitar and he played this song entitled ‘Santa Claus Is Green’ and referred to a carbonated soft drink that shall remain nameless.
I was absolutely blown away and was entranced by his incredible acoustic guitar skills. Now at the time my dad Pete Sargeant (who is the lead writer on Just Listen To This), hosted a Sunday morning to afternoon radio show along with comedian Stewart Lee and writer Dave Quantick (they alternated weeks) for Resonance FM which at that time was based in musician’s paradise Wardour Street. I told my dad to Newton and said ‘Dad you should have him as a guest on your show!’ Dad agreed and it didn’t take very long for Newton to be a guest on the show. He played a live acoustic version of ‘Santa Claus Is Green’ and I think that may have been one of Newton’s first radio appearances.
A few years later everyone was talking about this guy Newton Faulkner at school and his version of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’. I checked and it was the same guy with the dreadlocks I met in London! His debut album #1 ‘Hand Built By Robots’ (2007) and featured the hit ‘Dream Catch Me’. Newton’s career continued to flourish with three further Top 10 selling albums, including the #1 ‘Write In On Your Skin’ (2012). I saw him again at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall as a special guest for the ‘Sunshine Superman’ Donovan where he introduced us to his son who was sound asleep even with all the music going on.
Sometimes you hear someone who you think really deserves to be successful in the music industry because they are genuinely talented when it comes to vocals, musicianship and songwriting. In my mind, Newton Faulkner was the guy who deserved all of his success as people connect with his songs and his acoustic guitar playing is just a masterclass.
You can imagine my recent excitement then when I received news that Newton was going to be releasing his fifth studio album ‘Human Love’ on BMG. Gathering a collection of high profile writers and producers for his new material (including his brother Toby), this album sees Newton create a sound which has a real emphasis on drums to accompany his acoustic style.
Opener ‘Get Free’ is the first single to be taken from the album and started life as a worldwide online hit for Major Lazer in 2012, amassing a whopping +50Million views. Newton voice has gotten stronger over time and he has a real knack for selecting the right songs to cover. However, although it is a cover in the sense that it is someone else’s song it is really Newton’s version or take on the song and not a note for note carbon copy and that is why ‘Teardrops’ was as successful as it was in the charts.
‘Up Up and Away’ has a funky Bhangra style percussion intro into which develops into this One Republic-esque radio hit (provided a radio edit is produced to omit the word bull**** for the ears of infants travelling to school in the car!) It is catchy and hypnotic and like the formula of a lot of songs by acts like Train, Maroon 5 and One Republic, both men and women can sing along to it.
‘Step In the Right Direction’ is produced by Cam Blackwood (George Ezra, London Grammar, Florence and the Machine) and it is ideal for the clubbing scene as it has an electronic pulse builds as the song approaches the chorus with such ease. I can definitely hear this one being remixed or mashed up with another dance number.
‘Passing Planes’ is a little bit too repetitive for me but the guitar is first class and does blend well with the lead vocal. ‘Stay and Take’ features 22 year old Tessa Rose Jackson providing rich vocals on this fast paced track. As I listen to it I can’t help but think of The Buggles hit ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ because of the way it is mixed by Cenzo Townshend (The Maccabees, Jungle and George Ezra). I am impressed with this duet though as male and female duets aren’t easy but this is a very talented pairing who bounce off each other extremely well.
The vocal is echoed on ‘Break’ and compared to the other tracks it is stripped back to just guitar and vocal which is pleasant as that is how Newton established himself. The lyrics are incredibly sad but they complement the happier tunes. ‘Far To Fall’ takes the listener on an audio adventure and I picture being on a desert in a foreign land. If you enjoy Rachid Taha, Baaba Maal or Tinariwen then you might enjoy this mixture of contemporary pop and world music.
‘Gone’ gives Ed Sheeran a run for his money with the stunning vocal harmonies and free flowing guitar which is only enhanced with the drums and subtle piano. On the live shows I expect this one will be the ‘wave your arms in the air’ moment.
‘Shadow Boxing’ was produced by the Australian duo Empire Of The Sun and they have created a spacey song that showcases Newton’s versatility as a performer perfectly. The vocal round is a beautiful touch and I am convinced that the music video for this would feature stars, spaceships and far away galaxies.
The title track has hints of a lost Paul McCartney recording but the musical backing of what sounds like steel drums doesn’t make it a Beatles retread which is refreshing. I don’t feel that it is the strongest track on the album but the guitar solo is fluid without becoming tedious which is welcome.
In conclusion, this album lets us hear a new side to Newton as he works with drums and keyboards to treat us to a collection of songs that put feel and atmosphere upfront although his fabulous playing technique is here in spades.
Standard and Deluxe versions of ‘Human Love’ will be released on Friday 20th November 2015 on BMG, with ‘Get Free’ out on Friday 27th November 2015, on iTunes. In addition, Newton Faulkner will embark on the ‘Human Love’ UK Tour in 2015 and 2016 at the following venues:
Sunday 22nd November – Bournemouth – Old Fire Station
Monday 23rd November – London – Oslo
Tuesday 24th November – London – Oslo
Thursday 26th November – Kingston Upon Thames – New Slang at The Hippodrome
Wednesday 30th March – Manchester – Albert Hall
Thursday 31st March – Leeds – O2 Academy
Friday 1st April – Newcastle – O2 Academy
Sunday 3rd April – Glasgow – O2 ABC
Monday 4th April – Aberdeen – Beach Ballroom
Tuesday 5th April – Inverness – Ironworks
Thursday 7th April – Dublin – Olympia
Friday 8th April – Belfast – Limelight
Sunday 10th April – Cardiff – University
Monday 11th April – Bristol – Colston Hall
Tuesday 12th April – Guildford – G Live
Wednesday 13th April – Oxford – O2 Academy
Friday 15th April – Nottingham – Rock City
Saturday 16th April – Birmingham – O2 Institute
Monday 18th April – London – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Wednesday 20th April – Ipswich – Corn Exchange
Thursday 21st April – Portsmouth – Pyramid
Friday 22nd April – Cambridge – Corn Exchange
Saturday 23rd April – Bexhill-on-Sea – De La Warr Pavilion
Tickets fully available at 9am Friday 20th November 2015. You can buy them here.
Standard and Deluxe versions of Human Love are out now with ‘Get Free’ out on Friday 27th November 2015, on iTunes.
For more information visit: http://www.newtonfaulkner.com/
(Thanks to Pete Sargeant for help with this review)