Blake, a British singer-songwriter, released his new album Kaleidoscope on 24 September. Bringing back the psychedelic vibe of the 60s and the soft rock sounds of the 70s, this album can best be described as Beatles-esque. In keeping with the vibrant, handsomely coloured sound of the era, Kaleidoscope was recorded on analogue tape at Radar Sounds in London.
Kaleidoscope Track List
The 46-minute-long album begins with an upbeat track called, “So Good” that features energetic drums, groovy guitars and tight two-part harmonies. Blake’s vocals have a distinctive John Lennon influence that makes them quite refreshing in their own way.
“Whatever You Do” opens with a crisp electric guitar riff around which the track revolves. With melodious and raw vocals, rhythmic acoustic guitars and an absorbing bridge section this track is primarily an cheery love song, evident from the line – “Whatever you do, I’m underneath your spell..”.
Track number three, “Andrea Everywhere”, interestingly has only two chords being played throughout most of its 3:08 minute length. A catchy hook line, lively drums and some mellow synth filler leads make up for an engaging track that ends on a high.
Title track, “Kaleidoscope” begins with fresh instruments – a tamborine and a bongo form the underlying groove that’s quite similar to the beat in “Andrea Everywhere”. The song features exciting guitar progressions, a bass-driven interlude section and a solid outro that flows right into track number five.
Blake dials the energy down a bit with “The Lost Art Of Writing Letters” – a track with soft vocals that’s full of nostalgia. A sustained synth plays throughout most of the track accompanying a repetitive verse melody that’s doubled with a backing lead synth. All in all, a mellow song that’s placed aptly in the album tracklist.
“Paisley Patterned Love” is driven by bright chord stabs that have a guitar-like tone, and upbeat drums. I liked the composition of this track in particular because of the harmonic structure and a scale change that’s subtle yet powerful.
Track number six, “Love Is The Way” is very rock and roll in that it features distorted, sometimes wailing electric guitars, a solid bassline and strong vocals. It’s more dynamic than the rest of Kaleidoscope and the lyrics are well written and quite interesting.
“Blood On Their Hands” starts with a guitar riff that’s present throughout all the verses and builds up to a vibrant final chorus thst has a lot going on. Blake has shifted to a slightly aggressive and noiser tone halfway through the album.
Track number eight, “I’ve Got A Secret” has got sort of a beach vibe coming from the best, but maybe that’s just me. Reminiscent of some of the earlier ABBA records, Blake has written a catchy melody and introduced a melodious harmonica on this track.
A familiar chord progression, somewhat similar to the Godfather soundtrack, makes up the slightly sad and psychedelic structure of the instrumental track, “Snowfall On Nazareth”. It’s driven by a melancholic guitar lead, a tuneful flute and an acoustic guitar.
“Sunshine Celebration” is one of those songs that is perfect to jive to! It has the ability to transport you back to the dance bars of the 60s thanks to its catchy hook and vibrant vibe.
“Revelation Blues” is the first track on the album where Blake’s vocals aren’t completely raw. The somewhat different coloration here makes the song stand out from the others. With its blues progression, the song is quite easy to listen to and has a laid-back feel.
Track number thirteen, “Let Yourself In”, can be best described as posi soft pop song with mellow vocals and attractive acoustic guitars. The vocals seem to get obscured a bit by the drums at some points, but the fusion of the instruments is very harmonious and cohesive.
“No One Here Gets Out Alive” is a bass-driven song with a chorus I’d never have imagined being sung like it is. Blake has put a modern touch on older Beatles tracks by using melodies that are reminiscent to present day pop. Clocking at 5:27, this is the longest track of the album which features interesting transitions, guitar and bass solos and lush synth strings.
An acoustic guitar and two-part vocals make up the final track Kaleidoscope called, “Whenever You Call My Name”. Blake’s raw songwriting can be appreciated because of the unplugged characteristic of this song –it’s really intimate and feels like he’s singing in the same room as you! A great way to end the engrossing and enjoyable album.
Blake’s versatility as a singer and musician is evident on this attractive 15-track album that evokes memories from the 8-track recordings of the past. He has done a wonderful job in keeping the Beatles-like sound of the 60s alive through his comprehensive songwriting and spectacular vocals. With over 15 album releases since 2006, Blake has been making waves in the UK music scene for a long time and has even has his music on the soundtrack of a few Brit films!
Blake was kind enough to take the time to talk about the album with me. Here’s what he had to say about Kaleidoscope!
1- You’ve released numerous albums and singles for the better part of almost two decades now! What were some milestones in your career that shaped your artistic vision and how did it translate into “Kaleidoscope”?
Interesting question! I think that if you’re a songwriter, stopping writing songs isn’t really an option. I’ve been doing it since I was seventeen years old and I’m always trying to write better songs. I deliberately attempted to write the songs for Kaleidoscope in a variety of musical styles to challenge myself as a songwriter and to try and create a kind of “musical kaleidoscope” in a way that a lot of albums by artists I like in the late sixties and early seventies just naturally seemed to be. For instance, I’m really into Donovan and people might think of him as a folkie but actually he wrote songs in many different genres and his music contains fusions of jazz, folk, blues, pop and rock. In terms of milestones, I think of it in terms of successes in songwriting rather than external things such as gigs or recording contracts. I wrote perhaps my best song, ‘Vinyl Junkie’, in 2010 but it was only about five years later that I realised that it was a good one and duly re-recorded it! I try to reach the same standards of songwriting with each album I make. For Kaleidoscope, I wrote about thirty songs and ended up recording half that number. I attempted to work out which ones were best.
2- You have mentioned in your profile that the album was recorded on an analog tape recorder. How do your songs benefit from that recording process and why do you prefer using it?
Well, it’s always been a dream of mine to record in the way that artists like The Beatles did in the early sixties. The ‘Please Please Me’ album really was recorded in a day and even up to the end of their career, The Beatles always attempted to cut the basic tracks for their songs live. To use an actual Studer tape machine that used to belong in EMI’s Abbey Road studios was almost unbelievable. I am convinced that recording in analogue produces a warmer and more authentic sound. Of course, recording live takes onto tape is incredibly difficult and it was a real challenge in the studio to sing and play the songs through without making mistakes. I think that it suited my songs though because I’m not aiming for perfection, I just want to try and capture the essence of a song. I’ve recorded my previous albums with this attitude in mind but I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to record in analogue in a studio before.
3- Most of the songs in the album are reminiscent of pop and rock and roll music from the 60s and 70s. What was the inspiration behind writing “Kaleidoscope”?
Exactly that, really – rock and pop music from the 60s and 70s. It’s the music that I listen to and which inspires me to write. I was listening to Spirit’s ’12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus’ a lot before writing the songs on the album and so that was certainly an inspiration. Also, Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung’ and Donovan’s ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ LP. I just think that the music from that era is so good that I want to try and imitate it in some rather pale way. There seems to have been so much creativity in the air in the late sixties and early seventies for some reason.
4- How would you describe “Kaleidoscope” and what would you like new listeners to take away from it?
As I say, it’s meant to represent a musical kaleidoscope and therefore contains songs written in different styles and genres. It’s clearly influenced by sixties and seventies music predominantly, however. Lyrically it’s pretty diverse, too. It ranges from simple love songs to political protests to childhood reminiscences to songs about grief, summer, God and Elliott Smith.
5- There are 15 amazing singles in the album that are mixed excellently! Could you share any tips with up and coming producers and engineers who want to better their craft?
Thank you! I’m very glad you enjoyed it. However, the majority of the songs were produced by the owner of Radar Sound Studios in London, Fuzz. His ears need to get the credit for the mixing rather than mine!