The Seventy Twenty return with a brand new album “Welcome To Jackson Heights” in which James Burling coalesces the best of his first and second albums into a magnificent third.
Since last years “Joy” Burling has relocated permanently to the United States so the old Seven Twenty has gone and will have to be built up again from scratch. For this album James says “…..(it’s) all me except for an excellent New York based drummer called Josh Schusterman throughout, my Nashville country-hit-writer friend James Tristan Redding on bass on “Gods” and longtime Seven Twenty member and Scissor Stewart Harris on bass on ‘Untilted’.”
The album has ten tracks making up thirty two minutes so there’s no padding or lengthy outings, indeed two tracks, called “Interludes”, little musical sketches, are very short indeed. The album length and track timings are no great issue as the quality of the songs is timeless. There is an effortless, yet epic, grandeur to these tunes, imagine the distillation of urban tropes that you will get from an early Tom Waits album, the brash Jersey Shore blue collar pop of early Springsteen, the melancholic beauty of a Ray Davies classic, and McCartney at his most melodic, and you are close to what Burling has created here.
Classic albums shouldn’t take up to too much listening time, and they should leave a nagging message in the corner of your mind, begging you to listen again. “Jackson Heights” does this, as it conjures and delivers the story of a transatlantic love affair which has reached a point of resolution. If the first two albums were the courtship period of that love affair then this album finds it reaching something more permanent. There’s a maturity to the tunes, there’s not the ongoing search for a pop melody as there was on the first two releases. The New York meta-fiction thing here is whether the protagonist is in love with the girl, or the city, or both. The psychogeography of the Big Apple, and Queens in particular, is a key component.
There are a variety of new musical avenues explored, the rich psychedelia of “Untilted” for example echoes and builds on The Beatles “Within You, Without You” by taking it into a drone rock nirvana with searing guitars buried deep in the mix. Indeed the latter half of the album takes us into a range of areas moving seamlessly from pop to rock. The hypnotic “Waves As Tall As Towers” is a tour de force, layers of instruments build in a hypnotic maelstrom of sound, Burling’s vocals are sensational here, as keyboards surge around a repetitive rhythm which breaks down into a funky bass interlude. The closing “Jackson Heights” however takes us back to the stripped down acoustic guitar journeys of the first album, a narrative in the spirit of Arlo Guthrie or Paul Simon. A poignant closer to a wonderful album delivers the message that love has won the day. Surely a message we need to be sending out on both sides of the Atlantic in the days of the Donald and Maybot.
Album one was my album of the year, album two was Dave Hammond’s album of the year in 2018, I wonder if we will synchronise on this one? It’s probably too early in the year to tell……