Have a listen to “Dear Friend,” a blistering guitar-driven taster from Jonathan Wilson’s upcoming Fanfare (due out mid-October). If it isn’t the best song on the album, it sure is one of ‘em!
Posted yesterday by MOJO as their “Track of the Day,” the sinister cinematic vibe and slashing psychedelic soloing on this mind-crushing six-string duel with band member Omar Velasco would make it the perfect soundtrack to something going seriously wrong, in, I dunno, a climactic episode of Breaking Bad or a darkly intense Hollywood thriller.
With all of the Laurel Canyon this and Laurel Canyon that of just about every article that you read on Wilson, the sound on Fanfare has changed, significantly I think from Gentle Spirit, his widely acclaimed 2011 debut. Fanfare moves away from the “CSNY jamming with Pink Floyd” comparisons the earlier album was saddled with—this despite the contribution of some stunning vocals from David Crosby and Graham Nash, I should say—into multi-layered rock symphony territory that calls to mind Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s rock snob touchstone Pacific Ocean Blue.
The “next generation hi-fi” attention to the smallest sonic details should see the album embraced by audio enthusiasts. You want an album to demonstrate yer new (vintage) turntable and tube amp, bub? This is it. Fanfare was recorded to 2” analog tape and then mixed down to ½ inch tape at Jackson’s Browne’s Groove Masters studio in Santa Monica through a Neve 8078 analog console.
“Analog simply captures things better and it takes the edges off. It creates a beauty much like film,” Wilson says. “Fanfare is a vehicle to explore fully blown out analog production, from the strings to the hi-fi cymbal sounds. The recording used a live echo chamber extensively.”
Omar Velasco, left and Jonathan Wilson
Wilson told me that Brazilian artist Milton Nascimento was another major influence on Fanfare. At various times I can also hear echos of Traffic, the Dead, Laura Nyro, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Gene Clark and Tom Petty—Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench guest on Fanfare, as do Jackson Browne, Josh Tillman (aka “Father John Misty”), Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Wilco’s Patrick Sansone who did the incredible string arrangements of the title number. Folk legend Roy Harper contributed lyrics. It’s wide-vista, super Cinemascope music. Not too many artists have really attempted as complex an album as this one is in a long time—Kate Bush would be an obvious exception, so as you can see Wilson’s operating in rarefied company—where there’s like 64 tracks going at once. Fanfare, I predict, will become THE hi fi salesman’s go-to demo disc for the next decade. It’s a motherfucker.
Gentle Spirit, Wilson’s 2011 debut, saw Uncut magazine declare him to be their best “new artist of the year” and MOJO rated it #4 on their year end best albums list. It’s most certainly my own favorite album from 2011 and from the vantage point of this second day of August, I’d have to declare Fanfare, so far, to be the most important release of this year and it’s not even out yet. You can quote me on that: “Jonathan Wilson’s Fanfare is the most important album of 2013.”
Yep, I’m so nuts over this album that I just feel sorry for everyone who has to wait another two and a half months until it’s released. In the meantime, enjoy “Dear Friend.” Jonathan Wilson’s Fanfare comes out on October 14 through Bella Union in the UK/Europe and Downtown in the US.