Review by Paul H Birch
Slapping down a side of 12” vinyl was once the ideal way to soak in a brace of songs. With the advent of the CD we ended up getting too much and not always of a good thing; now downloading single tracks works against any appreciation of an artist’s diversity. A rational modern solution’s the convolutedly titled mini-album, giving us more than an EP and enough songs to fulfil that old vinyl fixation. Marketing ploys aside, Toby Jepson comes up aces high with Raising My Own Hell.
Hurling wry observations, frustration, and anger, Jepson’s contemptuous vocal sneers call to mind early Bowie or Alice Cooper. Musically, there are also hints of 70s progressive rock with the title track’s sax and organ riffing out like Van Der Graff Generator and the keyboards on ‘Patience of a Saint’ evoking Genesis, albeit for seconds in both cases; whereas ‘Dear Mama’ could be a Uriah Heep track recovered from the vaults. Not that anything sounds dated, more demonstrates music constantly reinventing itself, and maybe, subconsciously, Jepson’s seeking solace in a less complicated time.
‘Raising My Own Hell’ starts with a slow acoustic guitar strut as Jepson rants against disposable consumerism, burying bad news, and failed romances. As the drums pound out alongside a swelling organ it’s at once laid back and a kick-ass opening track. Musically driving and upbeat, lyrically ‘Dear Mama’ goes down a darker road exclaiming: “I hate to disappoint you but I’d do it all again,” then expounding that his father “demanded he become my role model, made his case with his boot and the strap”.
It’s Our-Father-in-Heaven who comes off reprimanded in the organ hymn of ‘Patience of a Saint’ as soulful harmonies back a lead voice that begins as a lullaby croon and ends in angry vent. Co-written with Kate Melua ‘Four Letter Word’ is an evocative broken heart acoustic love song, and as traditional as this record gets. ‘Different Shoes’ is a ballad about the homeless and downtrodden. It doesn’t preach; it simply expresses the need to consider differences. Something worth reflecting on this Christmas.
As it opened, Raising My Own Hell checks out boldly in a brash manner with ‘Shadow Boxing’ coming on with a big band blues sound, some delicious parping sax and leaving you with a desire to dance like Fred Astaire. Oh, wouldn’t Robbie Williams love to mangle a tune like this into drivel. Fortunately Jepson delivers it in style, singing in defiant conclusion: “I’ll be back again to raise some hell!”
8.5 out of 10
- Toby Jepson Website
- Toby Jepson on Facebook
- You can read MR’s review of his gig in Birmingham on 1st December here
- You can also check out MR’s interview with Jepson here
- Raising My Own Hell
- Dear Mamma
- Patience of a Saint
- Four Letter Word
- Different Shoes
- Shadow Boxing