All the Wrong Things
I listened to Forrester's All the Wrong Things on the hottest day of July, which was a perfect complement to this sunny and rich album of acoustic-electric folk-rock. Full of optimism and energy, John Forrester's second album of original tunes is immediately engaging and more likeable on repeated listens. Recorded in England and Germany, All the Wrong Things easily leaps over musical and regional boundaries with its appealing sound.
On the whole, All the Wrong Things is just the opposite: all the right things put together in a pleasing package. Forrester has put together an excellent band consisting of Matt Foster on electric guitar, Steven Cooper on bass and Adam Perry on drums. Teph Kay's ingenuous backing vocals are lovely and the Mayfair String Quartet makes some guest appearances. When the other bandmates are absent from the album, the sound seems a bit weak and underdeveloped, but together the sound is excellent. Keith James did a very nice job recording the project.
The highlight of the album, for me, is "Over the Edge." I wonder in fact why Forrester chose not to make it the title track? It reminded me quite a bit of Great Big Sea, the wonderful and popular Canadian roots-rock band. This energetic, folk-pop sound is Forrester's forte.
The upbeat songs tend to be melodically stronger on the album. The quieter, slower songs ("Song for Loss," "Haunted"), although they are delivered with emotional punch, don't provide enough for Forrester to work with as a singer and tend to lack strong hooks. At the same time, these songs seem weaker in the lyric department, including overly sentimental lines like "when I dream I fly high above / leave my wallowing soul alone" and "now all you feel is sunshine and all I have is rain." One criticism of Forrester's songs is that they can rely too much on sunshine/sky/rain/air/sea/stars imagery, which is OK in moderation but can often be avoided. A good alternative direction is a song like "Don't Sleep Easy," which for a change is in a minor key and has a rockier, edgier sound. Lines like "you gloat and preen and make me sick" are at least as appealing as the dreamy stuff.
Forrester may, I'm guessing, be falling prey to the "you-can-write-commercial-songs" trap just waiting for really talented songwriters. He CAN write radio-friendly, coverable tunes, so he may be inspired at the moment to write lots of love-and-loss songs. But as another individual singer-songwriter among the many, he might carve out a more memorable path with more unique ideas, making sure at the same time that he always is working with a great melody.
Forrester is putting all the right things together in his own way, and in doing so has created an appealing, listenable package just right for summer afternoons.
[ by Joy McKay ]