There always seemed to be some important missing link somewhere between
The Charlatans' Us And Us Only record and the soulful
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
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!
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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