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John Butler – 'The Loyal Serpent' Album Review


1. Wings Of The Morning

2. Boulevard

3. Bag Of Bones

4. All My Honey

5. When It All Becomes Available

6. Let Go

7. Maybe Tomorrow

8. The Days You've Made

9. Montpellier On Ice

10. Yes I Do

11. Billy And The Snakecharmer

12. Leave Me With The Sinners

13. Love It

14. Genius Alert

15. Work On It

At the end of the eighties and then the early nineties the Baggy sound morphed into Britpop and all the cool cats were producing 60’s Beatle style psychedelia. Diesel Park West drew on the 60’s for inspiration but dug deeper and took different reference points for their style, so it seems they were not considered part of the cool cats. In 1997 frontman and chief songwriter John Butler released a solo album, 'The Loyal Serpent', which did not get the accolades it deserved at the time.

After spending 21 years off the radar, the American label, Palo Santo Records, has taken what Q magazine called “intoxicating alchemy of Celtic-like passion” and delicately remastered and reassembled the parts for 2018. So does it sound dated like some of those Britpop compilations. A snap shot in time, or has it grown in stature?

The answer is the latter as far as I am concerned.

It opens with ‘Wings Of The Morning’ which has a very conventional 90’s Baggy intro, but then develops and grows with sweeping guitar riffs. You can see how this album all those years ago bucked the trend. It is obvious that John Butler has taken different points of reference from the sixties with the second track, ‘Boulevard’ instead of a long guitar with lots of trippy reverb there is a short drum intro and then straight into the vocal. The lyrics are delivered with a punchy rhythm backed with nice keys. This is predominantly a Small Faces style with really glorious organ. There are psychedelic interludes now and again.

So after the first 2 songs you realise that this album will not necessarily follow a formulae. Another great lyricist obviously inspired John Butler as there are more than hints of Bob Dylan in ‘Bag Of Bones’ John’s Dylanesque lyrical drawl delivery, is backed with an epic soundscape of keyboards and guitar riffs. This track is a singalong foot tapper, if I have ever heard one. ‘When It All Becomes Available’ is a story told in a similar vein, as is ‘Let Go’ which is an inspirational singalong. As if to mark the passage of time ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ seems to give a nod to Travelling Wilburies, with dramatic backing like waves crashing and swirling in a stormy sea. With ‘Billy And The Snakecharmer’ John Butler tells a great story with a Bob Dylan style verse mixed with a Stones like chorus.

For me the stand out track is the attitude laden, punky ‘Montpellier On Ice’. From the opening line, . ‘That Kid just fell on his ass’ the rhythm is full of exuberance, rythym is great. Great horns catchy chorus. Builds lovely shout Montpellier. Ends with a crash and a groan like a Punk number.

The three bonus tracks are noticeably different from the rest of the album. The catchy 'Love It’ is an obvious single release for todays market. ‘Genius Alert’ is a funky number with more than a hint of later Stones. with muted scratchy riffs and John Butler shows his soulful side with ‘Work On It’

I do not know for the life of me why this album did not have more commercial success when it was first released. It did receive a four-star review in Q magazine upon its release via iconic British label Chrysalis Records and came out initially to great reviews. Maybe it was not cool enough for Cool Britannia, but it has stood the test of time and this release, I think sounds as fresh as it did 21 years ago.

Review - Tony Creek

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