Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So Much For First Impressions...

When "Gentle Spirit" was released, the occasionally irresponsible British music rags talked up Jonathan Wilson as if he was the second coming of Mungo Jerry.  Both Mojo and Uncut gave the record 4 star reviews, and it ended up at #4 on Mojo's Best of 2011.

I took the bait, not just because of the reviews, but because of the kudos given by some artists I respect, like Elvis Costello and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. Also, I love Pink Floyd and David Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name," both of which get name-checked as comparisons.

Popped the CD in the player and was immediately turned off by its 78 minute running time.

Actually, check out what I had originally wrote about it:

It's contrived bullshit from another "genius."  As Neil Young famously said on "4-Way Street," right before debuting then new song, Don't Let It Bring You Down, "It sorta starts out slow, then fizzles out altogether."  By track 4, which is already 30 minutes into "Gentle Spirit," Wilson's vocals become a whisper, as if we're supposed to feel his pain or experience his "high." This record is a relentless display of pretense. 

WHOA! Slow down there, Tex. I think I may have had one too many Jolt Colas before writing that brief review.

Well, it's almost 6 months later, and as I am wont to do, I kept at it, chomping away a little at a time, sometimes in shuffle mode on the iPod.  I've come around. I still think the record should be half as long, but whatever hype seeped into my tiny brain and caused an automatic dislike has left my system, and I now feel like Wilson's "Gentle Spirit" has a lot to offer. It is very musical and often jammy, especially the second half, which you'll eventually get to. And the Floyd/Crosby link is dead-on.


Shriner said...

it's "I've Been Born Again" by Flo and Eddie all over again -- only twice as long!

It's uncanny!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Sal, I'm with you on this guy...I think. I first heard of him when he opened for Roy Harper's 70th birthday concert last November. I figured if Roy wanted him there, he must be worth a listen. My first couple of listenings were pretty much like your first impression, though I told myself that I heard a few things in some of the songs that told me I needed to keep trying. As I always tell people when I turn them onto what I believe is great music - 'repeated listenings will prove to be very rewarding'. Now all I have to do is follow my own advice. Randy

kevin m said...

I like this guy and though you were a little harsh but I guess Jolt Cola can do that to you.

And while the ablum may be a bit too long, I rarely listen to full albums these days anyway with my iPod (but that is a conversation for a different post).

Sal Nunziato said...


Wow! Good call on the rip.

A walk in the woods said...

I too wasn't impressed with what I heard at first, but have stuck with the one track of it I got free on a sampler ("Natural Rhapsody") and REALLY like that one. That, combined with your reminder here, mean I'll pick this mother up next time I'm in my local record store. Thanks for bringing this one back up from the dustbin.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I like the sound.

Jeff in Denton TX said...

"Second coming of Mungo Jerry" = rave reviews. Now, THAT'S funny, Sal!

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan. Glad you came around. The Brit music mag fave I don't get is Josh T Pearson. Am I wrong?

Bruce H

Sal Nunziato said...

I tried Josh Pearson, beard and all. NO go.

Big Jim Slade said...

HaHa! Sal, I remember that review and thought that while Jonathan Wilson may not be up your alley, he didn't deserve such scorn (I didn't worry myself about it, though). He is more about the vibe than you usually are - you prefer more efficient pop vehicles... and, yeah, the album goes on and on. I found the album to be great background music with some parts that pop out as more particularly pleasing, Desert Raven being one example.

Do they still sell Jolt Cola?

Sal Nunziato said...

@ Big Jim

"He is more about the vibe than you usually are - you prefer more efficient pop vehicles..."

I don't deny loving the pop tune, but I just don't think what you said is accurate. A more accurate description of how I am might be, "He's less about the hype than most people."

If records like "Gentle Spirit" get 4 stars, what do records like Floyd's "Meddle" or Neil's "Harvest" get? 20 stars?