There were some causes for concern when I first read Ben Poole’s description of his aims when making this, his second CD release: “We really wanted to get a balance between a live-sounding album and a well-produced, polished-sounding one. There’s a rawness and edginess, but also a subtlety and intimacy”. He says. It all sounds like the famed search by a tall, short man for a small, large house that is expensively furnished cheaply with brick walls made of stone.
What too are excellent blues axemen Henrik Freischlader, Aynsley Lister, Stevie Nimmo and Todd Sharpeville all doing making guest appearances on a disc by a highly rated young guitar star? And why is the rhythm section sometimes Ben’s own band of Craig Bacon and Matt Beable yet also Wayne Proctor and Steve Amadeo?
One thing the classy line-up of guests does make crystal clear is that Ben Poole is a popular lad in Blues rock circles right now, so let’s forget about exactly who does what and see if the what that they do is in and of itself pleasant on the ear. Poole’s first full length CD outing ‘Let’s go upstairs’ was an excellent debut and this one continues the upward trajectory whilst managing to avoid sounding like a mere follow up. It has it’s own merits and evolves from rather than copies its predecessor.
Don’t let the opener fool you. Put this on in the local CD store and track one, ‘Lying to Me’, will be what you expect – a good rocking number with a steady hard but bluesy riff and serious soloing. There’s also some glorious Hammond playing by King King’s Bob Fridzema to add icing to the musical cake. Very tasty indeed.
‘I think I love you too much’ is delightfully funky with a nicely mixed thick and chunky bass sound. The drum is spot on too – not surprisingly with Wayne Procter producing as well.
‘Longing for a woman’ has a light acoustic touch before launching into a typical Rockballad solo. These are clearly musicians who love their Rock music 70’s style. ‘If you want to play with my heart’ bops along in a bright and pleasant poppy manner which is in stark contrast to what follows in the somberly toned ‘Time might never come’. It’s a mood piece for sure and benefits from an excellent vocal “It has to be tonight – for tomorrow might be too late. The time might never come” Best of all is the finely crafted guitar solo here sitting delicately on top of a muted drum – One of those numbers that could happily continue for half an hour. Maybe it will do so onstage. I wouldn’t complain if the quality is this high. Poole has a fine sense of timing for the dynamics of his soloing and this is a masterclass for aspiring blues guitarists.
Time for a change of pace and ‘Stay at mine’ is a nice bit of pop flotsam, sparkling like, well, like the fine cherry wine alluded to in the first line I suppose. Rather reminiscent of 60’s pop hits the likes of which Hermans Hermits or the Mindbenders might have come up with. The squeaky clean production leaves no doubt this is hot off the presses though and it will have the audience struggling too keep their feet from tapping at concert halls throughout Europe this year.
The best tracks on this CD for me are the stripped down ones where Poole’s voice can come through clearly along with Bob Fridzema’s Hammond and a tastefully executed guitar solo. ‘You’ve Changed’ is one of those tracks, in fact, my personal favourite of the disc. ‘Just when you thought it was safe’ funks it up again, and again too that dry snare drum will have feet tapping wherever it’s heard. ‘Whoever invented love’ will be popular with Ben’s army of female fans with credit also due for the backing vocals, and here we are already at the final track – time flies when you’re having fun. ‘The question why’ quickly strikes a silky Santana style and I realise we’ve only really had one true rocker at the start, so if you bought the disc on it’s strength alone you will have been somewhat mislead – but hopefully not disappointed.
‘Time has Come’ is a disc of surprising delicacy featuring one of the UK’s finest young guitarists and ably assisted by two super rhythm sections. Those lucky enough to be in the UK will be able to catch Ben Poole touring this CD with Stevie Nimmo. Here in Europe where he is still largely unknown the audiences are likely to be far smaller than Poole’s huge talent deserves. Remember those days when King King played the local school hall and pub here in good old NRW? This week saw them play arenas in Sheffield and Wembley. My advice is to get along to The Yardclub in Cologne on 26 February and catch Ben Poole up close and personal before the big halls beckon for him too.