JOHN ILLSLEY – Long Shadows
aaamusic | On 23, May 2016
Distinctive musician John Illsley was highly influential as bass guitarist of the classic blues and rock band Dire Straits which sold in excess of 120 million albums and toured internationally. He’s received multiple Brit, Grammy and Heritage Awards and also acquired a reputation as a fine painter. His critically acclaimed last studio album, Testing The Water in 2014, had a quality that was instantly recognisable.
John’s sixth solo studio album Long Shadows, released on May 20th 2016, includes professional musicians Simon Johnson (electric guitar), Guy Fletcher (keyboard) and his children Jess and Dee Dee on backing vocals. The Mark Knopfler owned British Grove Studios, together with Room with a View Studio and A Bay Studios, were used for recording and production.
Delicate ‘Morning’ , a dreamy piano and string instrumental piece, begins the album, followed by the thoughtful and energetic ‘In The Darkness’ about how the internet seduces us all, but in particular young people who are encouraged to join radical and fanatical groups. John explains: “He was looking for a reason, maybe searching for a dream, decided to get involved with the forces in between. As his finger did the taking to a faceless entity, promises of endless pleasure and the road to ecstasy. In the darkness let the light shine through”.
‘Comes Around Again’ has a lively melody, whilst gentle ‘Ship Of Fools’ creates that classic image of a vessel without a pilot or direction and ‘Lay Me Down’ becomes an enjoyable shuffle. The moving ‘Close To The Edge’ has whispered lyrics and an emotional gospel style: “You can’t get angry with the angels, ‘cos they’re so difficult to find, there’s a cloud we call heaven, watch your credit cards declined”.
John Illsley is a relaxed, confident and familiar storyteller. As a keen observer he creates personal songs about political and social themes that have always concerned him. He explains: “For me art and music are interlinked – you start with a blank canvas and work away until you are satisfied that you have made something which is as close as it can be to what you are trying to achieve. There is a great element of mystery in both processes which can surprise you and upset you in equal measure”.