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Julian Garner - Your Good Self

Julian Garner was one of the first musicians whose work was reviewed by The Hairless Heart Herald back in 1994 when we published as a paper every two months or so. We were delighted to find that Julian had gone from strength to strength when we reviewed his album Doublethink in 2001, and 2004 sees the release of his follow up, Your Good Self.  The album should be available from September 2004 but Chris White has already given it a spin...

Julian Garner - Your Good SelfYour Good Self by Julian Garner is quite a shock to the system. It must be about ten years since I last had the privilege of reviewing his work. ďMy hasnít he grown?!Ē Jem and I said. And he has. Beyond all recognition. Maturity doesnít nearly cover it.

Your Good Self, the title track, pretty much lays the cards on the table as to what you can expect. This is not íin yer faceí prog by any means and probably nods more towards jazz in terms of chord changes, complexity of structure and detail and itís a pure delight to listen to! Full of little surprises at every turn. The songs past my whistle test certainly (in fact I found the melody of Your Good Self tripping unbidden through my head during a coffee break earlier. That said though, itís going to take me (and, I hope, you) a long, long time to learn the songs properly because beyond the hook is a world of intricacy in each track. For me that offers some rare and special indeed: a song that stands repetition because although familiar, it doesnít give it all up right away. You donít get it all on the first date, unnerstand? And to my mind that qualifies as Prog. The lyrics are pop-singable and beautifully descriptive by turns but no-exploding pixies or glass guitars here.

 So whatís sound like eh? If I said Glen Tilbrook I donít think Iíd far from the mark. And I mean the current Glen Tilbrook of Hourglass etc. rather than his work in the early nineties. Well try! Try harder then! Jemís musical knowledge is encyclopaedic so I trust heíll insert better comparisons here:).  (More recent Tilbrook, especially vocals, is a fair analogy but the music is richer sounding (think The Beatles) with King Crimson percussives and keys along the lines of Cat Steven's Foreigner Suite and touches of Anthony Philips acoustic guitar with more besides - Jem.)

The professionalism and polish of this CD is something to behold indeed. A song for just about any mood. Iím a sucker for a minor chord (because three notes just arenít evocative enough) and Julianís got cupboards full of the things. YUM! And he knows when less is more, something I have a lot of respect for. This is rich, beautifully layered but nothing is laboured or overblown. The result is absolutely gorgeous.

Thereís a lot of musical flavours on this work that I wouldnít have been drawn to normally but the way he mixes his moods setting oneJulian Garner atmosphere next to another produces something I wouldnít have expected to enjoy. I love surprises and Julian Garner had always had a Jack-in-the-box quality.

The best analogy I know is the Saturday Afternoon Rock Show. When dear ole Fluff put Vivaldi next to Van der Graf, I would find myself listening to a familiar song with a completely new ear. Iím sure many of you felt this too. Julian Garner produces a kind of auto-aural palette cleanser so even rhythms and moods that have other reference come across as utterly new. Detail!! Thereís great big piles of it!

The harder I try to capture this disk for you, dear reader, the more difficult it seems. Your Good Self is a rare creature indeed; a toe tapper for the car and something for the night too. You can chew the melody like handy bubblegum or listen a little closer and experience an aural feast of flavours and textures, familiar, strange and wonderful sometimes simply by their juxtaposition to one another.

Touching Distance has the feeling of something recorded in the middle of the night because it had to be and has a single voice and guitar freshness and spontaneity to it because of that. A rare treat these days.

Talisman is the Moon goes out in a truly prog-like instrumental passage, managing to use that strange slight of ear again by making a minimoog solo sound as if youíre hearing it for the first time ever before briefly dropping by the jaaazz club for a swift one where the main riff is pulled out of the hat once more. Nice.

On the whole the album is up-tempo and lyric-heavy a kind of condensed musical soup that leaves you feeling that you got a lot more than you paid (or bargained) for. Your Good Self is a must for anyoneís collection if only because it shows an unusually inventive and intensive approach to writing and arrangement and that makes it a must for song writers as well as music lovers. I always felt that Julian Garner's work deserved more attention than it got. I still do.

Chris White

Julian Garner


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