Release Date: Aug 21, 2015
Record label: Tapete Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Dear Mr. Howard, Hi. You don’t know me, and you probably never will, but that’s OK. I’m just one of the dozens of writers that heard your album before the general public, and must now sit down and write some generic review on it. But you spoke to me, Mr. Howard, and now I’ve got to speak to ….
A veteran of the post-Bowie, post-McCartney British pop of the mid-'70s, John Howard received an unexpected comeback in the new millennium once his Kid in a Big World saw reissue on RPM Records in 2003. Soon, his vaults not only were cleared -- first came Technicolour Biography, a collection of demos, then Can You Hear Me OK?, which gathered remainders -- but he returned to active duty, issuing sharply crafted collections of exquisitely sculpted pop over the next decade. All of these are worthwhile but 2015's John Howard & the Night Mail, his first effort with a backing band -- he's joined by guitarist Robert Rotifer, bassist Andy Lewis, and drummer Ian Button -- is something special, a robust pop album that recalls the feel of the '70s without seeming like a throwback.
Since his early 21st century rediscovery, British singer-songwriter John Howard has become profoundly prolific, releasing nearly an album a year. Not a bad run for an artist who, prior to 2005’s The Dangerous Hours, had only one album proper, 1975’s chamber pop masterpiece Kid in a Big World, to his name. But with that album’s rediscovery, the floodgates were opened and compilations of archival recordings began to appear alongside a torrent of new releases, all steeped in richly observed singer-songwriter material unfairly ignored upon initial release.
If anyone tells you that ‘things were better in the old days’, just recite to them the tale of John Howard. Not the penal reform campaigner, nor the former Australian Prime Minister, but the singer/songwriter. Never heard of him? There’s a reason for that. A quick history lesson: in 1975, John Howard released an album called Kid In A Big World: a record full of lushly orchestrated songs featuring some particularly witty wordplay, all delivered in Howard’s rich, distinctive voice.
Though it didn’t garner attention until nearly three decades after it was issued, John Howard’s debut Kid in a Big World is now considered a certified classic. An ingenious blend of singer/songwriter classicism and glam rock atmosphere that could only have germinated in the sexy 70s, Kid should’ve made the British auteur a star. Things didn’t work out that way, and the piano man recorded two further albums that never saw release before moving in the background as songwriter and producer for hire.