Album Of The Week - Tony Skeggs - Made In New York
For this week, we're coming back to Britain to find Tony Skeggs and his 2005 record Made In New York.
Being a resident artist in the world-famous Cavern Club, it goes to prove how talented a musician Skeggs is, and even with this record being fifteen years old, it sounds as fresh as a daisy with this great and timeless vintage sound to it. One of the most notable things about Made In New York first of all is the sheer diversity and variety of tunes present, and it certainly works to his advantage.
The opening Cold Water has got this fantastic groove about it and a late sixties or early seventies sound that certainly fits the nice weather outside at the moment. That bright summery sound is nicely contrasted with a pretty gritty guitar riff, but rest-assured it’s a great one that also happens to be rather catchy. Skeggs’ vocal is also a real standout, as is the nice little piano lick that properly helps to bring this track to life. Can’t Give it Up is just as groovy as its predecessor, with a McCartney-esque bouncing melody and bassline. It sounds like something you’d have found on the Flaming Pie album from the late nineties and to be honest, it’s one of the album’s best tunes, with a head-bouncing and crystal clear vocal and a chorus that’s guaranteed to get you up dancing.
Break The Chain allows for another Beatles solo work comparison with a dreamy George Harrison quality to the song’s opening guitar riff, but this does mark Made In New York’s first slower point. It’s something a little bit more grown-up than the rock ’n’ roll seen on the first couple of songs here, marking a nice change. With Skeggs’ vocal also comes a nice honesty that only comes with songs like this and this particular one does that perfectly. It’s also worth noting that Break The Chain is one of several songs that he performs on his Facebook livestreams, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which also happen to be rather fantastic themselves. Someone On Your Side features something slightly more unplugged with just Skeggs and an acoustic guitar with something that sounds like it could’ve been a lost Beatles record - it’s got a wonderful sixties beat sound to it and is infectiously catchy. His voice suits this sound perfectly and it’s one of the best songs in his back catalogue of own compositions and a seemingly endless list of brilliant covers.
All The Love You Gave draws a bit of similarity to John Lennon’s Jealous Guy in the piano opening but also something a bit more recent in Guy Garvey’s emotional solo record Courting The Squall. Much like Break The Chain, All The Love You Gave is brimmed full of honesty and heartfelt love, and features one of Skeggs’ best vocal performances of the entire record. There’s a fantastic break with a great guitar solo and some nice rhythm work underneath, before sauntering into some brilliant songwriting - “We were heading for a chasm where the lost and lonely souls repair…” - it’s just gorgeous. Closer To Her brings back the attitude and beat sound seen on the first two tracks. It’s another great song in itself, with equally tremendous songwriting and instrumental backing. This particular one is a bit longer than some other compositions on Made In New York, clocking in at just under four and a half minutes, but it just gives you more time to enjoy the lyrical hooks and fusion of a guitar and piano backing that make this one of the most rocking tunes on the record.
The following Too Close To You returns to something acoustic and stripped back with a relaxing quality to it not seen before on Made In New York. The contrast in the song’s opening of the honest acoustic guitar and soaring electric makes for great listening, as does Skeggs’ marvellously melodic vocal which makes for a perfect centrepiece to an otherwise wonderful song. With an acoustic and piano-filled backing, Too Close To You is one of the simpler songs here and to be honest, simplicity is always more than welcome on an album of this quality because it goes to prove once again that you don’t need to create something clever to make a brilliant song. Second Skin continues in a similar vein, with an acoustic opening and lyrical pattern reminiscent of Stephen Stills’ Treetop Flyer, except it soon moves into something a lot more sinister and dark. This is aided by the guitar behind the voice that wouldn’t sound out of place on something a lot more progressive - it’s a nice direction that otherwise would’ve remained unexplored. At just over five minutes in length and with some powerful guitar solos and harsh-sounding drums too, Second Skin is well on its way to becoming a personal favourite of mine.
If She Lets Me Down moves away from the dark and sinister to something more honest and emotional, which certainly seems to be Skeggs’ forte. It’s a moving piano ballad that offers a musical side that hasn’t been seen before, but is one that certainly makes this album one to listen to. With some quite harsh and low piano notes, there is a sense of pain cultivated that’s helped along by Skeggs’ powerful vocal that certainly makes for one of his best performances of the album’s forty minute duration. Tear In Every Town is as enjoyable as some of the other tracks here, but one that returns to a bright and summery sound previously seen at the start of Made In New York. With its swaying vocal, upbeat tempo and country-like melody, it suits the nice weather perfectly and also makes for a great one to listen to with a long drink and smile on your face. Made In New York finishes with the solemn Here We Go Round Again that’s a perfect song for listening to as the sun goes down as you sit on your front porch. It’s another one of these more stripped-back songs that Skeggs really makes his own as the album runs its course. The inclusion of a slide guitar also helps in creating that sunset atmosphere, as does the crisp spoken vocal and light smatterings of acoustic guitar over the track’s two-and-a-half minute duration.
Made In New York really is one of the best underrated albums of the last twenty years. From start to finish, no two tracks are musically the same and each one carries their own fantastic charm and merit. It’s clear that Skeggs is a jack of all trades and can master everything from country to beat in just over forty minutes. Rest assured that Made In New York will be responsible for one of your best musical experiences this year.
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/2NkuYly
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More musical magnificence to come next week!