Mister Keith - Record Of Wrongs

Published Tuesday 3rd May 2016
Mister Keith - Record Of Wrongs
Mister Keith - Record Of Wrongs

STYLE: Roots/Acoustic
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 157710-23791
LABEL: Umbowler UMBMKCD001

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

I remember once reviewing the 'Tin Machine' album for a hi-fi magazine and, like all the other reviewers, being flabbergasted by David Bowie's unexpected entrance into heavy metal. Today I am again faced with a seismic stylistic change with the 'Record Of Wrongs' album. Keith Ayling, now known as Mr Keith, has been a part of this reviewer's musical life since 1983 when I was working for Buzz magazine when I was approached by Keith and asked whether Buzz would review the album by his already Greenbelt-popular rock band K. Over the ensuing years and the development of K into Kato and with Cross Rhythms trying to locate the most youth-relevant music for its stations we naturally gravitated to Kato because, to our ears, they had caught the sound of Britpop without the mainstream hitmakers' narcissism and with a direct Christian message. But that was then and this is now. Keith's long career in rock/Britpop has given me no hint of what 'Record Of Wrongs' contains. With considerable help from producer Dave Izumi (Duke Special, Luke Sital-Singh) and a magnificent cast of accompanying musicians which includes Ben Castle (clarinets), Michael Buckley (guitars, banjo, ukulele banjo), Rhys Lovell (double bass), the Warwick University Brass Ensemble, the Eastbourne Salvation Army Band and some top rate violinists and cellists Mister Keith has turned in a jaw-dropping project. All this talent he and his producer assembled needed outstanding songs and Keith has surpassed himself here with this batch. They are by turns reflective, mournful, nostalgic, joyful, enigmatic, plaintive and continually evocative. Lyrically, Keith uses his way with poetic words to hint at the complexities and confusions of life, boldly admitting mistakes and bad decisions with just the occasional glimpse of hope and grace. Keith reports that the number of the songs were influenced by the loss of his father, uncle and father-in-law to cancer all within a three-year period of each other and it's clear that the triple loss has taken him to some dark places of the soul. The songs on the album are structured around three instrumental passages which act as kind of bookmarks to a musical journey which begs to be listened to as a complete whole. The styles range from jaunty vaudeville ("The Circus") to slow laments ("The End Of The Tether") and even when Keith's lyrical musings don't immediately reveal the inspiration or meaning they hearteningly never descend into obscuration. A sense of a life lived permeates the whole album. I'm not sure about Mister Keith's description of his new direction as "Victorian pop". The only Victorian pop that I've heard is the cylinder recordings of Ira Sankey and 'Record Of Wrongs' is a long, long way from such archaic sounds. But then again I'm not really sure that one reviewer's comparison with Ray Davies and Squeeze helps much either save that it indicates Keith's forte is a particularly British form of songwriting craft. So I'm going to refrain from making comparisons with anybody and will simply say that this is an ambitiously conceived, beautifully executed set of timeless songs and arrangements. Also there is the final bonus of handsome packaging, availability in a beautifully designed vinyl version and with both CD and vinyl featuring evocative photography. In every way a class package.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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