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A review of...
The Boombox Ballads by Sweet Baboo
Stephen Black gets complicated on his 5th album as Sweet Baboo
The Boombox Ballads begins in the low-key no thrills manner that you'd expect from a Sweet Baboo record. Just Stephen Black, his softly-softly voice and a delicately plucked guitar. But about halfway through the album opener "Sometimes", a wonderfully deranged orchestra chimes in and it comes as quite a surprise. This is the first time that Black has worked with an arranger (Paul Jones) and it really adds a huge amount to Sweet Baboo's already textured sound. The strings are ambitious, complex, at times quite odd, often AT odds with the mellow acoustics that surround them, but always welcome. As for Black himself, there's much more technique in his guitar playing these days, sometimes (as on the title track "The Boombox Ballad") it's quite reminiscent of label mate David Tattersall (The Wave Pictures) - a compliment indeed. You don't often hear Sweet Baboo and "ground breaking" in the same sentance, and there's a good reason for that. There's a cosy familiarity to his work which draws you in nonetheless, but here Black seems to be finally pushing things a little bit out of his comfort zone. He's taken Scott Walker's lead (late 60's Scott, not scary Scott) and produced, what is potentially his benchmark album.
"You Got Me Time Keeping" - Sweet Baboo's Bohemian Rhapsody, this is seven minutes of joyful/melancholic madness. Starting as a straight laced duetted love song (with Laura Bryon aka Tender Prey), full of hopefulness, it breaks down into sadness and then perks up again (via a 60's psychedelic trip).
"You Are Gentle" - A real piano foot-stomper with brass flourishes, sci-fi synth and self-harmonies. A warm and fuzzy production only adds to the enjoyment.