Miracles for Beginners

pd's picture

Nick Harper's latest studio album "Miracles for Beginners" was released on Monday 4th June, and I got my copy today (Tuesday 5th) thanks to Amazon. I was very excited to hear the new album as it promised to be a more "cut-down" production, allowing Nick's superlative guitar playing and very flexible voice to come to the fore. I felt that some of the previous studio offerings were somewhat over-embellished with instrumentation. Anyone that's seen Nick play live can testify that he doesn't need anything other than the trusty Lowden, some guitar effects, and his voice (which does take some extreme punishment at times... I suppose that could be said for the Lowden too!) to captivate and mesmerise an audience.

Some of the tracks do include drums and bass (1,6,7 and 8) and keyboards (1,10). The liner notes would have you believe these instruments are played by people such as Margaret Dumont, Thelma Todd and Mae Busch, though some internet searches might lead you to think that there might be something a bit fishy going on here...

So what is it like? Well, some of the songs have had outings in recent gigs and make their transition to record really well. I can honestly say that, this time round, I do not feel that the live "vibe" to the songs has been lost at all. "Blue Sky Thinking" (the single) and "The Field of the Cloth of Gold" are just perfect examples of acoustic music, not to mention "Simple" which is wonderfully augmented by some Harpic chorals in the background. I even like the song about football (Evo) which is going some for a sport-hater like myself.

I can take or leave one or two tracks, like "Always" and "Your Love Has Saved Me from Myself" but it is always a little difficult to get to grips with new songs on the first few listens so that may change. It's interesting that these tracks are the most musically embellished, so perhaps my personal listening prejudices are showing there.

Lyrically I feel Nick has blossomed enormously. I like the direct and unsubtle political leanings of some tracks on earlier albums such as "The Magnificent G7" and "Mr Grey", but with this record I feel Nick has really clinched it. The words and the music of "Cloth of Gold" seem to merge together wonderfully so that you can't hum the music without the words popping into your head, or indeed recite the words without the tune playing itself.

I've said this before, but Nick deserves wider recognition, more so than any other artist I can think of and certainly more than many that have "made it". I hope this record helps him achieve that. Let's get the word out there.

It'd be great to have others comments on the new record added to this post...

 

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
pete c's picture

Miracles for beginners

Not got mine yet. I'm hoping to pick up one at the St Helens in-store appearance tomorrow, and get it signed. Can't wait! Plus I'll have two Harpicfans and one Harpic "virgin" in tow. Mwahahahahahah!!

Mojo Review

For those who don't read Mojo here is the text of their four star review:

 

Seventh time lucky for the Bard of Wiltshire.

 

At home covering Public Enemy's Black Steel one minute and Frank Zappa's Titties and Beer the next, Nick Harper has often allowed his hugely entertaining live act overshadow his talent.  One of the finest guitarists of his generation, his soaring vocal range and propensity for epic song place him somewhere between Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley.  Thus far, however, putting his musical freedom before the demands of career, his talents have gone largely unrewarded.  Miracles For Beginners, his most focused, warm and triumphant album to date, could right that wrong.  Indded the largely acoustic material situates him in the same ballpark as his father, Roy, while plentiful highlights such as Evo (a beautiful meditation on Bolivia's President Morales), the Zepp-esque guitar slide of 2 Secs and the pastoral grace of of Magic Feather suggest that Nick Harper has at long last discovered where he belongs.

 

Phil Alexander.

scotpaulabear's picture

Wheeeee! 4 stars isn't shabby at all! :D

Thanks so much Steve, been checking the stores for the new issue but it's not in Edinburgh yet.  I've cut'n'pasted the review to harperspace.co.uk with a thank-you to you for typing it up - is there a pic in the magazine at all?

Mojo

Only a tiny one of the front cover artwork.

Barry's picture

Miracles

I have always preferred Nick acoustic, as you say Paul, all he really needs is his Lowden and his considerable vocal range.  I thought he had the sound spot on with "Kennel" and appears to be getting back to it with this release, there is not really anything I dislike about this CD and like all good stuff it grows with each listen, I guess early favoutites are the ones I have heard the most, namely Blue Sky Thinking and Simple.

However for anyone new to Nick, and I doubt there is anyone on here, Live is the way to experience this man. Following last weeks stunning performance at The Komedia I cant wait for the next tour, as good as any CD may be, I feel he really comes to life on stage, as he said last week "It's better then working" You felt he really meant that, he seems to enjoy his shows as much as us!

scotpaulabear's picture

The review wot I just posted to Amazon...

(I may add to this but I just wanted to try to get something down - this album is fuddling my head, it's so good and this isn't me being biased, I honestly hand on heart do think it's that good, and that much better...)

With 'Miracles for Beginners', Nick Harper has achieved the almost-impossible: he has made his best album ever.  This is a stunning, emotional, well-produced, sweeping and (dare I say it) mature piece of work that stands as a song cycle as well as it does a group of amazing songs.

Nick's voice may never have sounded better and richer, and the harmonies he creates with himself are really stuck in my head ages after the songs are over.  And, though not one electric guitar is included in the mix, tracks on the album rock out quite hard!  Hopefully this should answer Nick's critics who say his studio albums are never as effective as his live work, and will give him some of the popular recognition he sorely deserves.

The overwhelming theme is love, as it was in 'Blood Songs'.  'Miracles...' is more an ode to romantic and everlasting love, without being mawkish or soppy in any way.  It's almost impossible to pick just a few of the 10, but standout tracks for me include 'Always' (a deceptively simple love song that states perfectly - and with typical Harpic humour - how it feels to love someone, just because), 'Blue Sky Thinking' (the single with amazing guitar work), '2 Secs' (as a previous reviewer mentioned) and 'Simple', which is both simple and anything but at the same time.

42 may be Douglas Adams' answer to life, the universe and everything, but these gorgeous 42 minutes are my answer to the best album of 2007.

pd's picture

Nicely written, Paula. You

Nicely written, Paula. You inspired me to copy a slightly edited version of my review to amazon as well.

P x

scotpaulabear's picture

Nice one, Paul!

The more the merrier!

scotpaulabear's picture

Up to #115 in the Amazon chart now...

If you need a copy, BUY BUY BUY and let's get it in the top 100, however briefly!

ooooh how I hope this will chart this weekend *fingers crossed* *toes crossed* *eyes crossed*

scotpaulabear's picture

Ebay seller lovin' your work, Paul

You may be flattered - someone is using your review verbatim to sell a copy...

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180135254265&fromMake...