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Josh Rouse | 1972 (Ryko)
Only two years shy of being named after the worst year ever I am slightly suspicious of playing this. I mean, who would want to go back to that time? Luckily, the title refers to the year Josh was born, and his attempt to emulate the feel - make that vibe, man - of music of the era. The record positively sidles in and if it were possible to do it on tiptoes, then it would do that too, as the title track gently winds up to a soaring chorus. The retro soul feel of first single Love Vibration is even augmented by some groovy, but not ghastly, mellow saxophones and a natty call and response chorus. The stripped feel of the record seems to give Josh room to move, even shimmy as Sunshine (Come On Lady) shows as it syncopates along and reveals one of the themes of the album, the funky percussion courtesy of Marc Pisapla. His rhythms chug James along as Isley Brothers guitar work battles with some fruity flute work. Hmmm, maybe this is the 70s. Mott The Hoople could have been responsible for the intro of Slaveship but that's as far as they get as the rest of the song bubbles along with handclaps and a 'happy' feel. Somehow, Josh manages to make the '70s seem good, picking the best bits as influences and mixing them to produce a record that will still sound good when the next year '72 comes along. Most of the record is just Josh doing what he does best, playing songs that spin around you and wrap themselves tight, using his soft voice to good effect, throwing in a rasp and making your hair stand on end when you least expect it, such as when the strings on Under Your Charms drop dead to leave him alone. This leads into the final trio of songs that make you pine for more. Flight Attendant starts and stops, changing tempo more times than a 10cc song, lunging into a waltz from a lullaby before the delicate flight of Sparrows Over Birmingham takes to the air, slowly circling to the swirl of an organ, a light strum of a guitar and a gospel accompaniment. Rise does just that, building up from the vibraphone opening into a soaring finale of wurlitzer and guitar that explodes leaving you breathless as the dying embers flutter to earth. Josh has an alarming knack of making you feel like you have known a record as soon as you've heard it, the songs hit the right spot every time and the ease at which he does it, mixing styles up as he goes, makes you realise he's not done yet. Here's to his '80s tribute, that'll be a corker.

Laurence Arnold
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003