All The Pieces
Stay By Records
The debut solo album from the Levellers front-man
With none of the grandiloquent tub-thumping or boisterous manifesto deliveries he’s best known for Mark Chadwick is making a substantial musical departure from the sounds he’s spent the last 25 years creating with his day job band the Levellers. Written over the space of two decades it’s the chronological story of his life unfurled across a 12 song terrain with wide-eyed honesty and (surprisingly) unpretentious vulnerability. Various genres have been quarried during the writing process which, at times, creates endearingly delicate, understated moments of acoustic folk/pop. It’s here you find him, in the unconventional circumstances of a solo album, just a songwriter and his songs really, having nothing to do with something you’d perceived he must be - but clearly isn’t.
Although not the fully melodious, perfect album, in whichever sense of that meaning, ‘All The Pieces’ has a lot of great things about it and is a more than decent representation of Mark Chadwick’s songwriting abilities away from the other stuff as he attempts to capture the undoubted joys and emotions that make him the person he is. The best bits of this record are standout - like catchy, gospel tinged opener ‘Elephant Fayre’ complete with psychedelic 60’s sound interweave and cosy collective ambience giving it the ‘All You Need Is Love’ resemblance. The up-tempo, slightly countrified ‘Satellite’ sweeps along with its a violin-driven charm, and, the predominantly folky/Levellers vibe which sprawls all over the title track, makes for two more opportunities to appreciate the craft of the man. Where he shines greatest though is on ‘Seasons’ with its tumbling acoustic melodies, and the swaggering blues number ‘The Great And The Dead’, his spine tingling tribute to those who inspired him ( Joe Strummer, Johnny Cash, Neil Young among others) to come out the other side with something worth saying.
There will always be bits that grab you on this album, Levellers fans will embrace it I’ve no doubt, but you don’t need to be one to appreciate what he has done here and that’s where the real achievement can be measured, its appeal. Mark Chadwick is a singer/songwriter blessed with incredible versatility and intuition. He may not always have the ability to impress all of us all the time but, on the evidence presented here, he might propel us to hang onto his every third or fourth word.