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A Dark Storm Review

by Richard Radcliffe

I really enjoyed Detours' first two albums Debut and No Evil, and their excellent Snowballed, The Christmas EP, and was therefore hugely looking forward to this third Detours album, which promised a more polished collection. I was impressed with the sheer variety of songs on previous albums, and it was lovely to hear great songs performed well in the studio. A Dark Storm builds on the growing confidence of Detours, to produce 10 songs that push the group forward even further musically - providing the listener with probably their best collection to date. The sheer variety of songs is evident from the number of instruments used.
 
The usual Detour signatures are here. The acoustic roots of the group show through, despite the bigger production, making the lyrics clear and melodies sharp. Again all group members get their time in the spotlight, backed up effectively by the other 2 members and guest musicians. I believe there's greater variety here too musically, with each song unique, but still very much Detours.
 
The cover is rather striking, with the old, buried rundown house the main focus. It catches the attention very nicely. It's all about the songs though, and again they are very impressive in all kinds of ways - let me elaborate:-



Together
The Collection gets off to a rousing start with a "buddy" song written by EZ, but with each member of Detours shining through. You can imagine Sam, EZ and Ju at the front of the stage arm in arm singing this one, especially as the "believe in each other" lyric sings out. Remembrances of childhood and the dreams of rock superstardom is the subject, and anyone who knows the writer knows this is very much him! But this is not cheesy head in the clouds wishing, it's actually rather endearing in its message. I love how the song builds up, with the three vocalists and strumming guitar starting things off. After two verses the chorus kicks in, with soaring harmony complimenting the lyrics perfectly. Excellent sax solo from Phil Chapman after the middle 8 too. Heartwarming start. 9/10

Games
I heard this one first at their Christmas 2005 gig at Players' Theatre, and I loved it right from the first time I heard it. Written by Sam, it starts off with a rousing drum beat, which is soon joined by wonderfully gentle guitar strings. Sams brilliant vocals about the psychology of love then assault your senses, perfectly harmonized by EZ. It's an impressive vocal performance from them both, and melodically brilliant as it covers a huge range. What a great melody, and very reminiscent of the early Bee Gees work. Excellent song. 10/10

Reality
From the complexities of love we move onto the stark reality of domestic life. We join the thoughts of a struggling single mother dreaming of a more exciting life, but trying her best to cope with the one she has and from which she will never escape. With minimal, but effective accompaniment of acoustic guitar and accordion, EZ allows the words to be the main focus. The easy paced song takes a rather surprising turn about half way through as it soars, thanks to EZ's  vocals becoming more forced, the introduction of the rhythm section, and Sam's wonderful trumpet solo. Then there's a decresendo and back to the humdrum for the conclusion, emphasizing the nature of the song. Nicely done. 8/10

Everybody
This is a lovely little song, brilliant in its simplicity. Julian's vocals are ideally suited to his own song, with nice harmonising from EZ and Sam. It's a perfect acoustic song too, with only guitars and light percussion needed to complete the musical picture. You get caught up in the tranquillity of it, a wonderful way of demonstrating how beautiful companionship can be. The simple message is that everybody needs someone and needs to be needed. Delightful. 9/10

Right Now
Similar message here, but with aggression. Sam's song is more concerned with the addiction of love, inspite of its' destruction! It's presented in your face, with a strong, electric guitar accompaniment. You can picture Sam belting it out on stage, with EZ ably helping to stress the emotion with great harmonies. It's rather effective coming straight after Everybody - the complexities of Love contrasting with its simplicity. The main riff is emphasized to great effect, and there's a great bottleneck guitar solo from the great Paul Adshead.

Very Good Rock song. 8/10

Been Here Too Long
The uptempo music continues with this EZ number regarding the frustrations of being stuck in a rut and feeling as though life is passing by. Great lyrics that many people will be able to relate to. With Blue Thatcher's Patrick O'Hare guesting on bluesy electric guitar, showing his Eric Clapton influences. There's a horn section, hammond organ, piano, drums, tambourine, there's plenty going on. As a result it's one of the most extensive produced songs Detours have recorded. It's a lively song, well sung by EZ - nicely backed up by everyone concerned. Some may feel it's rather lengthy, but it gives Pat the chance to play that guitar. All considered, this is very good. 7/10

For Your Love
This is a real gem. Like Someday from the previous No Evil collection, it's shows how well Julian can write for the vocals of Sam. Minimal accompaniment from piano, strumming acoustic guitar and accordion provide an ideal complement to the main vocal performance. This is Sam at his most emotionally charged. He's at the top of his range for sure, but it all fits in nicely with the theme of the song. Of real note is the vocal harmonizing introduced part way in, as EZ joins Sam - fleshing out the song to something really special. There's a lovely guitar solo in there too from Paul Adshead, reminiscent of Hank Marvin, which really reaches out to our hearts. This is as good as it gets. 10/10

Still Rains!
Quite a departure here from the pen of Julian, with a rather tribal/back porch feel with the inclusion of dobro and didgeridoo. All three vocalists get their solo leads, but each also complement the others very well. It won't be everybody's favourite song, it's a little too unusual and discordant for that. It's a song that stretches the musical limits of the group though, and the whole production is highly impressive. Effectively different. 7/10

Girl
I have noticed in this collection a great input from the quiet man of the group, Julian. Here's another from his pen, the third in a row in fact, and a performance from the heart. It wears its' Bob Dylan roots on its sleeve, even name dropping him. It's Julian accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with understated, but effective acoustic guitar accompaniment and vocal harmonies from EZ, and very lovely it is too. Beautiful. 9/10

A Dark Storm
The title track of the collection shows how far Detours have progressed in the last few years, particularly EZ who wrote this, and was mostly responsible for the production. It is that production that deserves special praise here. As the excellent main melody begins with just EZ on vocals and acoustic guitar, you have no idea of the wonders to come. It all gradually builds together so well. It feels very American/Western with its dusty lands' arrangement, yet the thoughtful words EZ provides us with paint a very vivid image of a devastated Third World caused by either politics or natural disasters. The arrangement builds gradually and just keeps on building that it becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. It's the build up of the song I found the most impressive aspect. Each section is bigger than the last - and EZ builds this into his vocals. But then it goes further than that. When the vocals cease the instruments take over. Solos from harmonica, mandolin, piano, dobro, accordion, Patrick O'Hare on blues guitar, and as each subsequent instrument joins in another piece of the picture emerges. Each instrument has a part to play, but surely the highlight is Sam's trumpet, which multiplies to soaring effect as it blares out its hopeful message. There seems to be a whole brass band contributing by the end, and leaves the listener breathless. It fully justifies its 11 minute length. Epic. 10/10  

It's easy to wax lyrical about this latest Detours selection. It's musically more impressive, and varied than anything they have done before. This is surely the intent of a group of talented musicians, who are now pushing their individual and collective talents to their full potential. An absolutely brilliant album!
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