In a music business that can too often be driven by corporates, manufactured clones or finely choreographed campaigns, it is easy to become disillusioned. But for those living in the hope of finding honest music from real musicians, there is much to be celebrated in Michael Armstrong.
A true music fan, Armstrong devours the work of his idols – Paul McCartney, Steely Dan, Billy Joel and more – living and breathing every note, chord progression and lyric from the greats and it shows. His debut album, two years in the making, has been built upon a gift for storytelling, that works both lyrically and musically.
If nothing else, the names featured on the liner notes speak volumes. Alongside Armstrong, Keith Bessey whose credits include Elton John, 10cc and The Ramones co-produces, whilst guitarist Elliott Randall (Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers) features on three tracks, including the superb The Cola Paranoia. Lead singer of The Hollies, Peter Howarth, lends his vocals to Armstrong’s debut single, The Radio Years – a recording that has deservedly garnered much support from BBC Radio 2 airplay. That the album was recorded in The Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool is a source of much spiritual and artistic pride to Armstrong.
Armstrong is a talented writer and musician, displaying both depth and character. Vocally he offers a passing similarity to Jon Bon Jovi and even when he’s not singing, his arrangements are a delight, notably a gloriously slowed down cover of Billy Joel’s Allentown.
While the whole record has clearly been put together in a considered way – the two year process shows and is appreciated – there are particular highlights including Innocence Of Men and a forthcoming single The Contented Man (These Halcyon Days).
Packed with catchy melodies, harmonies and rousing choruses, the album is but built upon stories of substance. One can empathise with the Armstrong’s characters whilst his lyrics tell of real and relatable issues. Like the musical greats he has learned from, Michael Armstrong has created a truly memorable album.
For more information visit http://www.michaelarmstrongmusic.co.uk/ The Radio Years is available to download now from iTunes and Amazon. Michael Armstrong The Album is due for release on 29 June
Guest reviewer: Bhakti Gajjar