CLT’s new album consists of only five songs.
The episodic nature of the longer tracks ensures that we are never bored and rewards attention with musical changes and textures.
Here is an artist in complete control of his craft.
The album’s opener Uncle Arlie’s Hat of Dreams finds Tucker at his whimsical best. Accompanied by his trademark harmonium drone, he delivers the tale of ‘aged Uncle Arlie’ who, at first, appears to be a rural hobo ‘sleeping in a field of barley’ in an old felt hat ‘…of all the felt hats Arlie ever felt, none felt as good as that felt hat felt’ quips Colin in the first verse.
Like so many of his songs there is a sting in the tale, revealed in its closing chorus.
I can hear so many influences in this track, the word play of Lear and Carroll, the wandering chord progressions of Syd Barrett and a little of Tucker’s friend Robin Williamson (Incredible String Band) in the vocal delivery.
The Dead Tobacconist follows, bringing us to a far earthier place. A twelve-bar blues with drums, bass, Hammond organ, guitar and later, horns and harmonica performed by the same Chicago musicians that CLT employed back in 2019.
This is not an attempt at Americana though, once again the lyric places us in rural England with ‘chalky downs glistening in the pouring rain’. We find the narrator in a market town where he meets a tobacconist ‘a sad-eyed man who looked like he carried the can for every single grey English day’.
Tucker takes a guitar solo in the style of, I kid you not, B.B.King and the track soars with brass and a clever mash-up of Sonny Terry’s harmonica, the song returns with, once again, a twist in the narrative.
At nearly ten minutes A Place I Want to Be is the albums centre piece. A slow burn with gentle acoustic guitars, piano, some electric guitar musing to the metronomic beat provided by a knock on wood sound. Later, as the rhythm picks up this is joined by tambourine and tom toms. Occasionally the groove pauses before returning, each time with more intensity. By the time the vocal appears the guitar is chugging along with a gravely over driven sound, tom toms are thumping and we could be listening to The Velvet Underground.
The journeying theme is further enhanced by the opening line ‘Following the line of her infinite gaze, I could see she was miles away…’
Four short verses later the tension is at a climax and the music can no longer contain itself, taking over with the throb of pounding piano, guitars and feedback…whatever next…
…how about a trip to California?
A capella voices chant ‘Ba-lloon, Ba-lloon’ at the start of Big Balloon, a song that after an Anthony Newly-est introductory verse plunges us into a nineteen-sixties style pop song that could have been born of the sunshine state. All jangling guitars, backing vocals and wonderment.
It seems CLT wants to give his friend a birthday treat and asks ‘How ‘bout a ride in a big balloon?’ he offers to ‘bring the dope and a telescope’ but his friend turns down the offer on account of suffering from vertigo. Unperturbed Colin tries to smooth things over with an Elvis impersonation and offers a trip to the movies or zoo instead.
After the intense heaviness of the preceding track Big Balloon is a light-hearted romp with an amusing lyric and displays stunning musicality. Edited down this would make a fine single.
There has already been one single issued from Ode Trip and that was Guardian Angel, a beautiful seven-minute ballad that works perfectly as a closing track.
On Guardian Angel Tucker makes it clear that he has no rules when it comes to song construction. John Porters bluesy guitar works brilliantly alongside sweeping Melotron strings and choir sounds, strange chords are made to feel at home and a touching lyric is delivered with an understated majesty. ‘She’ll uncoil the strings attached to your kite, wrap you up in her wings and together you’ll take flight…’
Once again, an engaging and diverse collection from CLT that works as an album due to the strength of the man’s personality and character.
Few artists could have pulled this off but pull it off he has. To sum up in one word…remarkable.
Jack Boyce for Kurrent Music