Alexis Taylor and Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I Am Not A Weaker Soldier - Singles - Reviews - Soundblab

Alexis Taylor and Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I Am Not A Weaker Soldier

by alan duttfield Rating:4 Release Date:2014-12-01

Here we have a new Alexis Taylor and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy double a-side release. The first a-side features Bonnie 'Prince' Billy performing a version of Alexis Taylor’s track 'Am I Not a Soldier?' taken from his recent Await Barbarians album (to which we will return) released summer 2014.

The other a-side (or aa-side as some would prefer to call it) features Alexis Taylor’s version of 'The Weaker Soldier' from Arise ThereforeBonnie’s 1996 LP. If all this makes sense, well done, there may be a quiz at the end. Domino Records have set up the artists with a 'versus' in between their respective names. Does this mean they expect a public opinion on who ends up as the winner? 

Bonnie's version of 'Am I Not a Soldier?' opens with him on guitar playing simple, finger-picking chords in an eerily similar style to Laura Marling. As his gentle balladering vocals kick in, he begins a story of distance and love: “I’ve not heard your voice in such a long time”. 

Then the track hits a problem. Like an unwanted party gatecrasher, vocal assistance barges in, masquerading as chorus harmonies. The pitch and range on harmony support sound forced, strained, not welcome.

Normality and tempo return for the second verse with Bonnie back in solo mode. But all too soon we have rogue harmonies returning again. His voice and guitar-pickings make this song a treat. Leave those best-effort harmonies behind; this would be a version to play again and again.

Next up, Alexis Taylor with 'The Weaker Soldier'. A tinkering on the piano’s ivory keys confirms this is a stripped-down, back-to-basics, slow and melodic rendition of this classic track. It’s soon apparent Taylor’s voice is wavering and struggling with the songs rhythm. Once again the introduction of harmonies and double voices on certain lines simply doesn’t work.

The songs storyline is lost as Taylor fights with the higher notes. He’s back to his key of comfort when taking on the chorus. Unfortunately this means a repeat of chorus harmonies has to be endured.

The arrangement is one-paced, without any string or wind instruments. It’s a long, lonely five minutes for him. At no point does he take ownership of the songs structure. It feels and sounds like what it is: Taylor trying to deliver someone else’s song.

If you want to hear the real Alexis Taylor, try 'Am I Not a Soldier?' on Arise BarbariansI’m not sure of the point of this single, or the 'versus', or the arrangements. The artists in question could go again with these songs next week and the outcome would be far better.

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