Paul Steel - Carousel Kites - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Paul Steel - Carousel Kites

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:2018-07-13
Paul Steel - Carousel Kites
Paul Steel - Carousel Kites

What do you do when your debut album is a concept one, a ‘dreaded’ rock opera, so to say, that is hailed as genius by the likes of Andy Partridge of XTC and Van Dyke Parks? Well, you get signed to a major label, work on a sequel and then get promptly dropped by the same major as being ‘unmarketable’. So what then?

Well, after writing material for Mika, Australian pop quirks Empire of The Sun and contributing music to a movie like The Shape of Water, you start the whole thing on your own. And you come up with a sequel after all! In brief, that’s the story of Paul Steel’s second album Carousel Kites, a project that could have gone only two ways - be a complete, ridiculous flop or something that could really deserve the title’s work of genius. Dear friends, by listening to this album for a  number of times (a rarity in these days of the musical glut), I have a strong inkling we’re dealing with the latter here.

Attempting not only a concept album, but one that is actually a sequel to your previous concept album has to be a definite sign of tunnel vision on the level of the one Pete Townsend had with Tommy, Quadrophenia and his abandoned, but actually never abandoned Lifehouse project.

For it to work, both as a sequel and as a standalone musical project requires not only elements of genius, but guts, balls and pure determination. It seems Steel has it all. It took him 10 years to deal with it and as he previously set out to complete his debut April & I before he was 20, Steel was determined to complete Carousel Kites before he was 30.

So he did, and personally, I’m very grateful he did. What we have on hand is a continuous flow of unabashed baroque pop that combines everything from delicate Brian Wilson-style harmonies, Burt Bacharach-style arrangements and Todd Rundgren guitar buzz over his Beatles fetishes (the right fetishes, mind you). It is all combined with lyrical help from The Beach Boys lyricist Stephen Kalinich. In essence - simply brilliant.

As far as the concept goes, while April & I  was dealing with “a loss of an imaginary friend”, Carousel Kites continues the story, pitching in his music industry trials and tribulations and “salvation through a kaleidoscopic Mr Ben inspired shop portal”.

Crazy and over the top? Certainly! But combined with an almost perfectly executed musical vision it works wonders. It absolutely makes no sense dissecting the loosely divided 15 tracks because they work perfectly as a unified whole, but at the same time can be arranged and re-arranged in a different playing order, as a “kaleidoscopic shop portal”, I guess. An essential release.


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