Village Green: A Spark To Light The Fire


Village Green are a rock’n'roll band that have given consistently good live performances for a few years now, but how would a studio album appeal to those of us who are used to singing along and punching the air at live gigs?
I sat down with the list of twelve songs from the album ready to play, expecting a tamer version of what I’d already heard in various venues throughout Teesside. When I clicked play, my expectations were immediately smashed to smithereens. This album sounds like Village Green maybe a few years from now in a world where they’ve been snapped up by a grateful record label and a top professional studio has locked them inside and not let them out until a masterpiece has been created. My jaw drops as I start to hear crisp, clean guitars and backing vocals that sound like Village Green have been given the best, seasoned professional musicians to work with alongside the regular members.
The reality is that this album was recorded and produced by a local studio, Jampott Recordings, and so it looks like its not only musicians in Teesside that are eager to perform above their league and give us something to be proud of, but also the people behind them too. With this album Jampott have given Village Green what they clearly needed – a “big band” feel that makes you feel like you’re listening while sat in the VIP area at the Albert Hall, rather than at home in an armchair on a laptop.
What struck me as an immediate ‘upgrade’ with this album was how much time and space has been given over to the instruments, giving them the freedom to do what they do best . There are countless guitar solos that will make you reach for your air guitar straightaway, and fast-paced drumming that will make you wish you hope and pray that you’ve been a good boy/girl this year and Santa brings you a drum kit.
But enough with the generics, let me take you through the album with a few details about each song:

1. I Must Carry On
If ever Village Green play Wembley Stadium, they HAVE to open with this song! It starts with the drum/snare beat that would get any crowd clapping above their heads in time, then the guitars come in with a sound that announces the bands arrival triumphantly. When the lead singer starts singing “Its a rock’n'roll woorrrrlldd!”, so do the backing vocals, which completes the “stadium” feeling. The lyrics are simple and easy to remember and perfectly placed inbetween excellent instrumental breaks.

2. Sunshine
This song starts in a similar vein – marching-style drum beat closely followed by inspiring guitars. It also makes you want to sing along, albeit more in a swaying-arms-in-the-air fashion. As the song hints, this is a great summer song with optimistic lyrics about starting anew. Apart from it being a good song, this is worth playing to hear the shotgun being fired!!

3. Carnaby Street
This is probably my favourite Village Green song in a live context, so it was hard not to skip ahead and listen to this first. I have not been let down! I thought that famous opening guitar riff couldn’t get any better – it can, and it has!!
In fact, the guitars are prominent throughout this track, and that would be the only thing I would change. The lead singer and backing vocals are almost drowned out by a lead guitar that doesnt stop. All you guitarists will find this one orgasmic because of that!

4. Band In The Head
This is very aptly named song, because this is the earworm of the album. I know most people talk about earworms as a negative thing, so this is a good opportunity to let Village Green insert a positive one into your head. I’ve been humming this while doing inane things like biting my nails, for about 48 hours now. All of the guitars get a good airing in this one, even the bass! And rightly so. Can’t wait to sing along to this one at a gig!

5. English Countryside
If your hands aren’t sore already from clapping along, they will be after this. And even if they are sore, you won’t be able to help but clap along. A semi-acoustic track that further increases the whole feel-good factor of the album.

6. Love Will Save The World
Halfway through, and time to switch up gears. Ferociously good intro that challenges their lead singer, Andy, to keep up. He does that by dictating a change of pace during the chorus with that anthemic voice of his. The backing vocals are brilliantly done on this. I know almost nothing from a technical point of view, but I imagine the studio found this track to be the biggest challenge of all. I think they nailed it, but see what you think.

7. Strange Love
This is one that pumps the fists! This will remind you of U2 in the days when they were bring out awesome songs like Elevation, and weren’t annoying everyone. A great song to put on at a party to get everyone up and dancing/headbanging/bouncing. Plus, we all love any song that starts with a cowbell, right??!

8. It Hurts
The value of adding backing vocals can be heard best on this one. Again, the guitars are given free-reign to rule throughout, although it has an underlying acoustic element that complements them well.

9. Forever The People
A great call-to-arms, solidarity song! My hope with this song is that a group like Teesside Solidarity Movement use it as their theme song. It has an abrupt ending, almost as if to say to us “Its your turn!”

10. Blinded By The Glow
Continuing in that vein, this almost ballad-like song urges us to wake-up and smell the coffee in terms of the state of the country, with lyrics like “We’ve had it easy since our fathers stood their ground.” I can see this song being accompanied by a good, poignant, music video.

11. 1984
Although this is one of the shortest tracks on the album, it packs a hell of a lot into it. Its one of the earliest songs from the band, but this version is quicker than any previous one. Another great guitar and drum intro launches a high energy track with the singalong part being short bursts of “HEY!” This song just about pips the others to the post in terms of guitar solos, giving it a huge wow-factor!

12. Lost In The Melody ft Holly Shahverdi
A beautiful acoustic ballad finishes off the album in style! Having heard Holly Shahverdi in other guises, I was really excited to hear how this combination would work. It cannot be understated how perfectly she fits in. If anything, there’s not enough of her enchanting, ethereal voice. Whoever came up with the idea of featuring Holly is some kind of genius! This track was described to me as “if the album was a massive rock’n'roll party, track 12 is the morning after.” I couldn’t agree more. I can easily picture a whole load of us waking up on the floor of Andy’s house after a humungous party, and him and Holly serenading us with this song just before we drag ourselves home.

So there you have it! A Spark To Light The Fire is a fantastic accomplishment by both band and studio. They’ve spent a year on this, and their investment has produced the ultimate feel-good album. Other rock bands throughout the country should be listening to this and aspiring to produce something similar. If they do, we can push out the crap that’s currently coming off the conveyor belt. Maybe that’s the aim of this album. Maybe that’s why its called A Spark To Light The Fire.

The official album launch is a live gig on Saturday 8th November at O’Connells, Bedford Street, Middlesbrough. Tickets are only £3 in advance, £4 on the door, so get them here:

I’ll certainly be there, armed with my air guitar and ready to fist pump the air a few thousand times. See you at the front!

Thanks to Simon Rylander for this review and thanks to Village Green for the album. Get yourselves to O’Connells and give some support to this hard working local band.

By peter on November 7, 2014

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