Heyward is back with a new solo album, his first in eighteen years in fact. Opening cut Love Is The Key By The Sea is a gorgeous melody-based song with a fine fresh-air vibe and clear vocals, a full band sound arriving just after the minute-mark. Heyward sounds alert and alive and in fine voice. A female vocal threads through the song here and there. Its appeal falls somewhere between The Beautiful South and Crowded House, with windswept Kate Bush production. He’s back, then.
Mountaintop starts with vocal harmonies and punchy acoustic guitars, delivery style vintage Monkees. A swooning fiddle drops into the mix as Nick sings of a love for nature’s glories. Next up is the fidgety The Stars bringing a slight New York tinge to proceedings with its jagged tempo, but the singing is oh so English. Muttering Heads anyone? The lyric here is impressive in a glad-to-be alive manner and the song utterly propulsive, synth doodles and all. An exquisite bridge could be off RAM…
Beautiful Morning has countryside sounds and a sombre chordal passage. Again a really clear and lovely vocal with interesting but subtle things happening in the background. Anyone who loved Four Seasons In One Day simply has to hear this creation. Who ? gets the listener snapping the fingers and tapping the plates. Another tuneful melody. This really is the Heyward we know, blended with early Lovin’ Spoonful and that is a compliment. Forest of Love plays with percussion but the delivery here is more Robert Smith less the feyness and the music here has echoes of ELO.
Baby Blue Sky rocks out with gritty guitar chording and a West Coast topline, edging towards Crazy Horse, semitone chord shift to the fore. The guitar break is neat and to the point. A hit single I would think, if Radio 2 doesn’t interfere and eff up the mix! I Can See Her has Heyward in the closest he’ll get to Gilbert O’Sullivan, very catchy too. Perfect Sunday Sun bursts out of the speakers in the manner off a 60s b-side like The Beatles’ Rain. The dense production suits the number.
New Beginning has atmosphere in spades. Dark acoustic guitar drives the tune which is mostly instrumental and could soundtrack a history of canals and locks, exquisite listening indeed. I Got A Lot benefits from Haircut man Blair Cunningham in its easy-rolling impact and steady beat. Maybe the best vocal on the set occurs here – warm, assured but tender enough. For Always is a twinkling cloud of a song and sees the album out on a plaintive note.
Organic and clear, this record flings Heyward into the countryside to make busy but overall uncluttered songs and sing his heart out. The spirit of Macca’s early solo albums and Bob Lind abounds. This is a sweet adventure, gentle strength its backbone