Album Review: Jonathan Wilson, “Fanfare”

Fanfare

When the title track on Jonathan Wilson’s Fanfare (2013) bursts forth with big, reverbed drums, symphonic strings, and flute accents, it might have you wondering whether you accidentally queued up a different Wilson, say, Brian or Dennis. It’s far from the last time you’ll find yourself hearing echoes of rock’s Golden Era in the next seventy-eight minutes – heck, by the end of “Fanfare” itself ELO seem to have taken over the studio.

The guest list should give you an idea of the sound that Wilson is trying for: Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, and Graham Nash all feature, in addition to Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Patrick Sansone (Wilco), and Josh Tillman (“Father John Misty,” Fleet Foxes). Crosby & Nash are particularly important here, and by extension Stephen Stills and Neil Young, since it is the harmony-drenched folk-rock of Déjà Vu and contemporaneous records by CSNY’s constituent parts that provide Fanfare’s foundation. Add to that some Pink Floyd spaciness, George Harrison slide guitar solos, “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”-style jazz-rock interludes, and a cover of psychedelic pioneers Sopwith Camel’s “Fazon,” pump it all up to epic scale (these thirteen songs average six minutes apiece), and you’ve got one of the richest albums of the past decade.


On the one hand, it’s a joy and a pleasure to hear a record like Fanfare released in the 2010s. On the other hand, much of the joy and pleasure I derive from this album comes from contemplating its influences. And sometimes those influences are blatant, as when a funky break on the Lennon-esque “Lovestrong” turns into all-but-plagiarism of “Echoes,” or when the haunting, “Guinnevere”-like “Cecil Taylor” suddenly features two-thirds of CSN. On the third hand of the multi-limbed goddess of rock & roll, however, these songs are so good that they could actually appear on many of the classic records they so strongly recall.

Jonathan Wilson was born in 1974, after many of those records had already been released. And yet at thirty-nine, he’s older than many contemporary songwriters who, like he, are only on their second album. As Barnaby Smith at The Quietus perceptively observed, this means he’s free from the need, felt so acutely in twenty-somethings, to prove himself. He’s able to make the kind of music he enjoys. If that music sounds straight out of Wilson’s birth year, so be it; it was a pretty great year for music, after all.

9/10

Buy it here. Listen to it here.


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2 Responses to Album Review: Jonathan Wilson, “Fanfare”

  1. Pingback: Tom’s Top 10 of 2013 | Revolutions Per Minute

  2. Pingback: Tom’s Top 5′s: Albums of 2013 | Revolutions Per Minute

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