‘Radio Voltaire’ is the long-awaited follow up to 2005's ‘Picture’. John Mitchell (vocals, guitar and production), Marillion's Pete Trewavas (bass) and John Beck of It Bites (keys) remain from the original line-up, although Beck is credited as a guest musician on this release. Drummer Craig Blundell, of Steven Wilson's band and also long time Mitchell collaborator, completes the group.
Being a big fan of ‘Picture’, and of Mitchell's work generally, I was looking forward to hearing this release in the hope that it would be a worthy successor. After several listens, I'm still not quite sure if this is good album or whether it is a tad disappointing, leaving the listener wanting a little more.
It opens in fine style with the title track, which features a soaring melody and some seriously good guitar and is completely representative of Mitchell's signature sound - and herein lies part of the problem. Mitchell has a very distinct production style and sound and this, coupled with the fact that he is involved in so many different projects other than Kino (Frost*, Lonely Robot, Arena, It Bites), tends to make a lot of the ventures he's involved in sound very similar.
As such, you could take several of the tracks from this release and swap them, for example, with tracks from either of the Lonely Robot albums and they would sound completely at home. I think what I'm trying to say is that this effort needed to have more of a distinct identity to separate it more from Mitchell's other work.
That's not to say that there aren't some excellent moments, including the beautiful, piano-led 'Idlewild', the similarly gentle 'Temple Tudor' with an intro reminiscent of North Sea Radio Orchestra, and the album closer, 'The Silent Fighter Pilot', which features more stunning guitar work and a lyrical theme about the failure to learn lessons from the First World War which led, inexorably, to the Second.
All in all, this is competent release, which is only to be expected given the calibre of the musicians involved. When it hits the heights, as mentioned above, it is very good, but there is also a fair bit here, given the high standards we have come to enjoy on previous releases, that doesn't quite hit the mark.
Review by Dave Uphill
23rd March 2018
1) Radio Voltaire
2) The Dead Club
4) I Don't Know Why
5) I Won't Break So Easily Any More
6) Temple Tudor
7) Out of Time
8) Warmth of the Sun
9) Grey Shapes on Concrete Fields
10) Keep the Faith
11) The Silent Fighter Pilot
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"When it hits the heights...it is very good, but there is also a fair bit here...that doesn't quite hit the mark."