Wednesday, September 21, 2005

CAFE IN AMSTERDAM - a debut album by Alan Wall

CAFE IN AMSTERDAM - cover designed by Steve Lloyd (email:

I first heard CAFE IN AMSTERDAM, the first track in Alan Wall’s debut album, over the telephone.

‘Listen to this,’ he said, ‘What do you think?’ and on went the music. Even in these slightly bizarre circumstances I was impressed. Alan was a poet before he became a novelist and he is also a Bob Dylan devotee - and these tracks are obviously heavily inspired by the great man. The lyrics are poetic, but not pretentiously so, and the music is very infectious. By the second playing I was humming along and pretty soon I think I shall be singing along too.

The first track is possibly my favourite but there are some close contenders. It is also the the most musically complex with Alan on acoustic guitar, Dave Greenold on accordian and Ken Morris on soprano sax. Alan’s son, Michael provides an enchanting glockenspiel embellishment and the four instruments with Alan’s voice meld together very well.

MAKE LOVE TO MY SHADOW is a title I love for its slight wickedness - Alan’s voice is gruffer here and there is a very Bob Dylanish bit of harmonica playing, as well as acoustic and slide guitar and Steve Lloyd on tambourine. It is an American sound -perhaps the most ‘country’ of the selection.

The next track, ROY’S SONG, is a didactic piece. ‘She don’t love you any more,’ the narrator observes, and goes on to explain why . This song is poignant and also very successful - with a strong main theme.

AFTER THE WAR is descriptive and suitably gruff, and there is another piece generally anti-war in flavour: SOLDIERS OF THE ISLANDS.

There are also two very short acoustic guitar pieces with no vocals: WHERE MARY’S GONE and ANNIE which show off Alan’s playing to good effect, a traditional song called LORD FRANKLIN which refers to the loss of Franklin in the Arctic, and a touching short song called SONG FOR CLARE-MARIE written to the artist’s daughter. It is affectionate and playful, neatly avoiding the obvious rhymes with a striking ending.

CAFE IN AMSTERDAM is already in my blood. It is a latte-sized cup of American-roasted Bob Dylan sprinkled with the exoticism of English cocoa. I shall sit back and enjoy.


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