+ Limited indie shop version pressed on red vinyl.
The result is a bright, wry, melodically buoyant and sweetly melancholy tonic from the North Wales (born in Trefriw, near Snowdonia; now Cardiff-based) singer: a tribute to the joys of travel and the warming return home alike. Previously, Black’s co-travelling collaborators have included Carmarthenshire’s Cate Le Bon. But his sweet sentiments and winning melodies have been constant companions for all open-hearted listeners since 2003. And they prove so once more on Wild Imagination, with impeccable timing.
“I think everyone agrees 2016 was a pretty shitty year,” Black explains. “I kept thinking about my son (he’s nearly 3) and wanting to protect him from the world, so I decided to try and make an album full of positivity because that’s what I know I can do. And at the moment, I don’t know what else to suggest. As an aside, the album was originally going to be called Positive Recordings.”
The ten positive missives assembled for Wild Imagination are fully alert to the transporting and restorative possibilities of pop music. The lovingly nurtured, brass-warmed introduction of The Gardener is Black’s attempt to mimic the insta-pep opening of The Beach Boys’ California Girls; co-conspirator Paul Jones provided the arrangement, Black and multi-instrumentalist Rob Jones played the music. Another influence was Moog wizard Mort Garson’s 1976 LP Plantasia, an album made for tending plants to: tending one’s garden being very much on Black’s mind here.
The brightly melodious title-track is a love letter to Black’s son, couched in the enlivening appeal of good music. With elegant beauty, Black integrates snapshots from father/son moments with openly declared debts to his forebears. “I’ll lift you up towards the edge of the moon/ Pretend you are flying,” he sings, while adding a hint of his own aspirations: “I put on some Beatles and some old rock’n’roll…”
“You may as well aim high,” Black explains. “As with a lot of this album, I wanted to convey the sense of hope and joy I feel when I listen to Robert Wyatt or Arthur Russell singing. Musically, I love the mix of Jeff Lynne acoustics, cheap drum machine, Talking Heads keyboard riffs and Wings guitar licks. The middle eight is lifted straight from the Euros Childs songbook.”
Black’s church of pop uplift is a broad one. While Boombox looked to everyone from Nilsson to Scott Walker for inspiration, Wild Imagination frames Black as a gently inquisitive psych-pop explorer of pop classicism’s outer reaches, forever seeking out fresh melodies to brighten the perspective on a darkening world.
"Within the honesty [of Wild Imagination] there is no agenda other than the salvation of his sanity, a man coming to terms with his existence and role on planet earth and its' forever changing wallpaper." - Cate Le Bon
1. The Gardener
2. Wild Imagination
5. Clear Blue Skies
6. The Night Gardener
7. Hold On
8. Pink Rainbow
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