There’s a very simple reason that this album tops my list – there are no skip tracks. That’s pretty good going for 14 tracks and almost an hour’s running time. There is also a pleasing variety of genres and styles to give variety to the listening palette: soul, reggae, hip hop and gospel, to name a few.
Opening track, Grateful, sets the scene that Ben Drew is a man who has been deeply affected by the life changing experience of parenthood. And this has led him to some reflection about his own father, who left him as a small child. There are multiple references to this throughout the album, as if Ben simply cannot comprehend that what he feels about being a fatherhood is sadly so different to what his own father felt. The lyrics of Mercy spell this out in the most blatant way, “It’s a sin to turn your back on the oats that you have sown.” And in Flesh And Bone, “I ain’t anything like you, if I was my daughter’d be without a father.” Ouch.
There is, however, plenty of love on display in Queue Jumping, via the medium of falsetto, and it’s a bit of a flag wave for feminism as well, “Don’t let yourself be on the side baby, Yeah don’t let yourself be lied to, You need somebody on your level, You’re far too good to just settle baby.” It’s an absolutely blissful and heart swelling song.
Grateful and Queue Jumping alone would make this an album worth having, but if you imagine that Ben Drew has forgotten the political stuff, having far too much of his time time taken up being all soft and mushy for those he loves while despising those who have let him down, think again. Mid album, we return to his real life opinions in Guess Again, the most hip hop of the album tracks, and It’s A War, which manages to sound light in feel while the tone is heavy. “When you protest and you picket, Then you’re making war on the wicked.” The video cleverly uses you tube comments mixed in with song lyrics.
As you might expect from a connoisseur of hip hop, there are many pleasing rhyming moments. Ben Drew could be viewed as The Bard fo the other Stratford in that sense. In Mercy he says, “Blame the devil for my lucidness, forgive me for my stupidness…” and there are many religious and spiritual references, not always in a comforting way but more in a repressed Catholic sense.
Final track Sepia is a gentle but positive ending. It plays on the idea that his life changed from being colourless to colourful when love came into his life, “Everything looked Sepia sepia, Before you came along and saturated me with love, then I couldn’t be happier happier, since you showed me how there’s more to life than what I thought there was.”
There really is very little I could find to criticise the album. It reached Number 5 in the album chart and I really do feel that was way short of what it deserved.