It is a source of some consternation that Barry Adamson has largely avoided the masses’ collective interest, and he remains, more than 30 years after first appearing with the post-punk outfit Magazine, a left-of-field character, known only by those with their snouts in the trough of cultural goodness.
A voice to match any crooner, and a fine taste in guitars, jazz and film-noir; it would appear that Adamson would be an ideal guest for American late night talk shows. But, I guess, ironically, those factors, unleashed on small independent labels, just won’t do for a general public that has little appetite for film directors like Derek Jarman and David Lynch, both of whom have worked with the Mancunian. Or maybe it’s just that there is a blanket ban on people called Barry.
He is an enigma, and last year I initially missed I Will Set You Free (Central Control), discovering it months after it was released. This review comes either as a very belated one, or worthy of Attic Dweller, a series of overviews of classic past albums that hasn’t been seen on these pages in recent times.
It proves to me that Adamson is improving as the years grind on, although I Will Set You Free isn’t as good as previous works such as Back to the Cat (2008).
Adamson sets his stall up early with the mesmerising Get Your Mind Right which begins with some dirty guitars from Bobby Williams and reaches a crescendo with Bazza hollering, almost against the grain of the previous verses, “I took a bullet in my residence, I took a bullet as a precedence, I took a bullet for my president.”
All solo albums come, of course, with able sailors, and those adjoining Adamson on vocals and bass guitar, are Williams, drummer Iain Ross, and former Roogalator member, Nick Plytas on piano and organs.
It’s Plytas’ craftsmanship that boosts Turnaround, one of a series of hugely uplifting tracks that mark out the album, with an eye on an imaginary movie soundtrack, or the theme track to a New Zealand television drama. His love of movies comes across most obviously on Destination, which opens with 40 seconds of serious riffing, with Adamson rattling off the lyrics like it was a grand prix practice session. See below for a short film set to Stand In. Meanwhile, Bazza starts in a mournful manner on The Trigger City Blues, “I have a gun and I’m going to use it,” just prior to the band hitting into late-period Fun Lovin’ Criminals territory, complete with gunshots against windows, bodies falling to the ground and a motorbike racing off. Later, a phone rings for what seems like forever. Eerie yes, but it works.
Looking to Love Somebody is Adamson in near-ballad mood, pining for a new love, and If You Love Her similarly sees our Man from Moss Side taking the tempo down low. It fits in with the album but may be one that fails to escape the forward button. I Will Set You Free concludes with the very appetising, almost religious, Stand In, the closest Adamson will get to Scott Walker, of which there are some similarities.
Adamson has been doing some production work, notably on The Dames’ self-titled debut, released this month but here’s hoping more solo work is on the horizon.