Tokyo Rosenthal Ghosts
Tokyo Rosenthal: Ghosts
There’s a suitably spooky cover photo for this recent album by ‘Tokyo’ Rosenthal; his head covered by a boxer’s hood, the picture has been given a mottled treatment that makes him look like a statue in a graveyard about to come to life – or possibly a living person in the process of being turned to stone. Ghostly, indeed. Toke’s songs are ghosts, too. Clearly notes to himself about people, relationships, moods and events in his life, they deal with recognisably ‘real’ things but resist being pinned down to specifics and shimmer away from you just at the moment you think you’ve grasped them. Not a bad thing, of course, because it gives the listener scope to insert his or her own experiences into the song.
Musically, this is a pretty diverse collection; in a way it reminded me of Clive Gregson’s approach. Both men are songwriters first and foremost and are prepared to return to rock and roll or embrace a ‘folk’ sound or whatever seems appropriate as the mood takes them. On Ghosts, three or four different instruments are employed to provide the key sound in different arrangements. There’s Lisa Lacheau’s flute on two songs that introduces echoes of some woodland arcadia; there’s Bobby Britt’s spirited fiddle playing, pitched somewhere between central European folk style and Scarlet Rivera in Dylan’s Desire period. Quite fantastic, really and providing the urgency that absolutely makes this album’s stand-out song, Mister, Tell Me ‘Bout The Great Depression. There’s a sombre, reflective cello counterbalanced by delicate playing on banjo and mandolin on ‘House on the River’ and then, finally, there’s the excellent Al Perkins playing pedal steel on three songs to give a definitively ‘country’ tone. And Then You Sang is one of these and here Toke really does go for the full country sound with that big resonating guitar sound in the middle eight and a pleasingly mellow laid-back arrangement.
Mister, Tell Me ‘Bout The Great Depression is a very good song indeed; wrapping up this whole decade of bad wars and bad economics in one short song, he pretty much nails the whole shebang as seen from the level of the ordinary Joe, and does it in the style of one of those songs that seem to be the voice of a whole layer of society, not just one man. It’s a song of these times for all time and big thanks to him for writing it.
That’s a very immediate song, but there’s lots of slowly discovered pleasures to be had from Ghosts; he’s a thoughtful songwriter with an interseting way of going about things.
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