Monday, October 24, 2011

Gallagher's High Flying Birds Soars

Father of the Britpop sound and Oasis refugee Noel Gallagher isn’t interested in stepping out of his comfort zone. Instead, the 44-year-old rocker is looking to make music without the expectation of compromise that a band might need.

Fine with me. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds soars with promise and mostly delivers.

Gallagher has always felt comfortable in the role of lead guitarist, principal songwriter, and occasional (although very able) lead singer. But one can’t help but wonder if he felt cautious and tentative in going it alone, especially because brother Liam beat him to the punch.

Liam Gallagher only found a lukewarm commercial success with Different Gear, Still Speeding by his band Beady Eye, which includes two of his former Oasis bandmates.

Feuding brothers makes for good tabloid fodder. What else? 

Between the feud and the competing solo albums, there is an ever-present speculation that an Oasis reunion may never happen. Hard to say. Noel is up for it, but reminds fans that it is Liam who has categorically stated that it will never happen. The twentieth anniversary of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory will be in 2015 and fans naturally want some shows in honor of this milestone.

Can the brothers work it out for the fans and money, never mind for love? We shall see.

Then agin, if Noel Gallagher was concerned about finally going it alone, he needn’t have been. His first flight with High Flying Birds shows him happy, a bit sad, tentative, and yet rocking at the same time, with his characteristic kick-ass melodies.

As for the band’s name, Gallagher knew it would be called Noel Gallagher’s something, but wasn’t sure what. Then he came across a Jefferson Airplane album with a song called “High Flyin’ Bird” and instantly knew he’d found the right name.

The album is set to debut in the U.S. on Nov. 8, but it’s been out for awhile in the U.K. on Gallagher’s own Sour Mash label, where it has sold more than 120,000 in its first week. Pretty impressive.

These songs are new to listeners, but Gallagher’s been kicking them around for many years. Some sat idle as a few demos and sound checks, even finding their way to the Internet (apparently leaked). It’s not a radical departure from Oasis, but Gallagher probably doesn’t want it to be.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds lifts off.

The 10 tracks run the gamut from classic rock to horns and choirs. Everybody’s On the Run features telling acoustic guitars and catchy background vocals. The voices of the Crouch End Festival Chorus give the song that added lift.

The melancholy AKA … Broken Arrow is buoyed by Gallagher’s piano and an awesome guitar solo, while Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks is poppy in a 1960s sort of way. Dream On features, of all things, a trumpet and a New Orleans vibe but manages to sound fresh and very satisfying. If I Had A Gun, previously leaked as a demo on the Internet, is fleshed out in all its glory, with a restless Gallagher singing “If I had a gun, I’d shoot a hole into the sun.”

Helping Gallagher to co-produce the album is collaborator Dave Sardy, who produced the last two Oasis albums. Rounding out the lineup are Jeremy Stacey on drums, Lenny Castro on percussion, and Mike Rowe on keyboards. Joining the band on tour is Russell Pritchard on bass. Great fits. All of them.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Soars In With A 7.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Gallagher’s in fine form here, and already planning a second solo album, which he has described as a companion to this one. It’s as though he’s stuck a toe in and found out the water’s just fine. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will be touring the United Kingdom and Ireland in February. They’ll be playing a few key Oasis songs, but no songs that fans closely associate with estranged brother Liam.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: Deluxe CD/DVD set comes with 40 minutes of video, including the making of documentary It’s Never Too Late To Be What U Might Have Been, and more. It’s a good choice for long-time fans of Gallagher and gives a glimpse into his careless brilliance.

You can also find the deluxe edition on Barnes & Noble. iTunes will release the self-titled album Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds for digital download on Nov. 8 in the U.S. You can preorder it now. If I Had A Gun ... is already available as a single.
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