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Tim Burgess
I Believe
Koch Records

There always seemed to be some important missing link somewhere between The Charlatans' Us And Us Only record and the soulful Wonderland… that critical element that somehow transformed a Manchester Britpop band into a soul heavy shadow of Curtis Mayfield. The songs that were written for the latest Charlatans' release Up At The Lake were not giving up any hints themselves, but with the US release (finally!) of Tim Burgess' solo record I Believe (originally released overseas in 2003), that missing puzzle piece drops into place.

The songs on I Believe are very representative of what was going on in the heart and mind of Burgess since his 1998 relocation to Southern California. Most of the songs on the record reflect more American influence than the heavy British sounds he had been producing up until that point. A steady dose of California sunshine and Brian Wilson records seems to have pushed Burgess into an acoustic and intimately self-explorative direction. Without the strong influence of the rest of the Charlatans, Burgess was free to explore musical themes and attitudes that would inevitably come back and play a part in the creation of the last two Charlatans' records. Overall, this record shows Burgess' deepening interest in the musical aspects of his adopted home that were never before explored in the work of the Charlatans.

The opener "I Believe In The Spirit" is a slow introduction to the changes that are to be found on the rest of the record. The song is soul heavy, with keyboards and guitars that could as easily have jumped from a Charlatans' recording and horns that definitely point to Burgess' absorption of American soul, and lyrically, Tim makes some preliminary jumps into a more American style of poetry. The single from the release, "Only A Boy", is a well-produced pop masterpiece, filled with crisp drumming and brilliant guitars, and is also the first introduction to the falsetto vocal stylings that became so prevalent on Wonderland. "We All Need Love" is an acoustic guitar track that shines an introspective light deeper into the soul of Burgess than we may have previously glimpsed. The track is beautiful, and stands out as one of the most poignant and fresh tracks that Burgess has ever written. The very poppy and slightly modern Latin flavor of "Oh My Corazon" is immediately catchy, and claws its way into the brain with such fervor that you will find yourself singing the song for days, even weeks to come. The song is full of the same sonic goodness that has always been a part Charlatans' records, showcasing some amazingly clear drumming, thick guitars, and the ever-present clarity of Burgess' voice. "Be My Baby" draws from the same wellspring from which Brian Wilson took many of his cleverest musical inspirations. Deep orchestral strings nicely offset the acoustic guitars and interweaving vocal lines, creating a track full of sonic depth and dazzling emotions.

The inclusion on the US release of the two b-side tracks from the Only A Boy e.p. is a welcome addition to the record, and makes a nice "Thanks for waiting" gift. But mostly, with this US release of the seemingly lost and forgotten Tim Burgess solo record, fans of the Charlatans can only hope that some label will pick up the idea and license Up At The Lake for domestic release soon!

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. I Believe In The Spirit
2. Held In Straps
3. Only A Boy
4. We All Need Love
5. Who The Cap Fit
6. Oh My Corazon
7. Be My Baby
8. Years Ago
9. Say Yes
10. Love To Spend The Night
11. Po' Boy Soul
12. All I Ever Do
13. Rough Time
14. I Believe In The West Coast (instrumental)

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