Review: Harrogate musician's brilliant World Music

Harrogate music legend Ashley Reaks.
Harrogate music legend Ashley Reaks.

Ashley Reaks - The Earth Swan Sings Again (album)

Unpredictable, inspirational, provocative, fearless and, occasionally, just plain daft, Harrogate exile in London Ashley Reaks’ latest album is just about his most cohesive to date - and that's not meant as an insult.

It’s certainly one of the few works since he was on Top of the Pops at the start of the new century with his hit electronic pop band Younger Younger 28s you could contemplate slipping on in the background when friends are visiting.

Of course, nothing is totally straightforward with this accomplished multi-instrumental musician, artist, provocateur and poet.

But the nine tracks on the exquisitely put together The Earth Swan Sings Again ooze classy calm and cool, built subtly on complete jazz drum tracks courtesy of Oily Mike with added guitar by fellow talented Harrogatonian Nick Dunne and sax by Joel Purnell.

Recorded and mixed by ace Harrogate producer Dan Mizen at his own Warehouse Recording Co studios on Wetherby Road in Harrogate, it seems this latest veer of direction has been inspired partly by another multi-talented maverick, Robert Wyatt.

Not that it's jazz by the normal definitions. Reaks is no Kenny Ball, Miles Davis or Wynton Marsalis.

Hints of world music, post-punk and, even, African musician Mulatu Astatke's 'Ethio-jazz' flow naturally throughout.

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Wrapped skilfully in a chilled, late night atmosphere with little touches of mild psychedelia, too, Reaks’ surreal, Dada-eque vision of art and life seeps out in titles like I Stroked Her Like a Leper and Blackness Closed Against the Summertime.

A true original, the twists and turns of Reaks’ ‘career’, a concept, perhaps, too ordinary to apply to him, has seen him voyage from the wooden floorboards of Harrogate’s Blues Bar to swanky London art galleries, Glastonbury Festival to Japan.

Whatever. Thirty years on Ashely Reaks remains as inspired as at the beginning, his creativity forever young.