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Billed as a blues, rock and soul guitarist, singer and songwriter, Ben Poole garnered a fair old slab of decent press for his previous full-length offering, 'Time Has Come'. In the blurb, that album's title has been interpreted as a bold, assertive statement of intent of the here and now point in his career, as well as what the future might hold. Now we have the follow-up, 'Anytime You Need Me'. If, indeed, his time has come, he hasn't particularly seized the moment and capitalised on all the buzz. While 'Anytime You Need Me' has a series of likeable enough tunes, it feels devoid of passion, any sense of emotional depth, and... well, it's all just a little banal.

Recorded in the East Midlands, Ollerton, at Superfly Studios, and produced by King King's Wayne Proctor (who also performs drums on the album), 'Anytime You Need Me' is most definitely a well-produced and well-mixed effort. Everything sounds great. However, it's the songwriting itself where an inherent weakness in the album resides. Most tracks were co-written between Poole, Proctor and Steve Wright, apart from two covers - Jude Cole's 'Start the Car' and Don Henley's 'Dirty Laundry' - and a song written solely by Wright, 'Don't Cry for Me'. The album's mid-tempo tracks seem to meander without purpose, and the down-tempo numbers are just too plodding. In fact, despite minor blues, funk and rock passages, the mainstream pop sways of the music is, perhaps, one of its failings. If you're going for mainstream appeal, then you should fully embrace such. I've no problem with well-written, commercial music, but it feels like this is an album that's stuck in limbo, between striving for commercial viability and exercising artistic integrity.

Poole's singing is another distinct weakness. While his laidback, smooth toned delivery ostensibly feels right for the vibe of each composition, his voice is a generally a little lacklustre, which becomes more and more apparent as the album progresses. A limited range, I'm guessing, in terms of tonality and style. Had he been able to add a little more grit and gruff flavours in his overtly "clean" delivery, and let rip with a more impassioned vocal here and there, songs would've been given that extra emotional kick of which they're ever so lacking. It all feels a little too safe and middle of the road. It doesn't sound like he cares... which becomes difficult to emotionally connect with as a listener. BUT... and it's a big but, listening to this album in the right context, I've found it to be decent enough sonic fodder to feed my mood. It works well as background music. However, I doubt 'Anytime You Need Me' would ever engender a particular mood within me. It's all too pedestrian and vanilla, and certainly not an "anytime" album.

Instrumentation-wise, Proctor's drumming is great, as is Beau Barnard's bass work and Ross Stanley's piano, synth, Hammond and Wurlitzer playing. However, considering this is a Ben Poole album, and guitar is supposed to be a big part of his musical personality, his fretboard work is competent enough but, like the man's voice, lacks any real standout qualities by which he can forge a sense of individuality through his playing. Rhythm-wise, it's all pretty standard motifs that tread stylistically safe ground. As such, it's often incredibly uninventive. And his licks and solos all feel overtly safe, too; reverting to tried-and-tested idioms in each track. Clichés abound!

For all its failings, 'Anytime You Need Me' is still an above average album. The negative points I've indicated are only where I believe 'Anytime You Need Me' falls short of building on the promise indicated in press blurb of this supposed exciting new artist whose "time has come". Maybe the material is brought to life in far more exciting ways in a live context. On record, it's a likeable listen, but one without any emotional sparks.
Manhaton Records
Review by Mark Holmes
14th Sept 2018
1) Anytime You Need Me
2) Take It No More
3) You Could Say
4) Found Out the Hard Way
5) Further on Down the Line
6) Dirty Laundry
7) Start the Car
8) Don't Cry for Me
9) Let Me Be
10) Holding On
"...it feels like this is an album that's stuck in limbo, between striving for commercial viability and exercising artistic integrity."