RARE BIRDS album by Jonathan Wilson (Bella Union, 2018)

rare“There’s no fear, no hatred, no killers, no guns”. This is the hippy dream of Jonathan Wilson – songwriter, producer, musician and all round gentle spirit. It comes from a line in ‘Over The Midnight’, one of the many highlights from his latest feel good solo album ‘Rare Birds’.

Mellow LA vibes usually leave me cold but this record has really warmed my soul this year.

We are so resigned to expressions of cynicism and negativity that it takes music like this to remind us that it doesn’t necessarily have to be like this. Wilson admits that he wrote the ELO-esque ‘There’s A Light’ as a conscious antidote to the darkness that surrounds and inhibits us.

Though locked in the 60s/70s as far as influences and mood goes, he manages to get in a few digs at the current generation for whom technology all too easily stands in for the need for meaningful human contact. In a variant of the ‘make love, not war’ message on 49 Hair Lips, he sings: “We’ll be fucking, we’ll be sucking while the rest of them are posting their lives, ahh these kids will never rock again, sign of the times”.

wilson bronsonThe rich band arrangements in the 13 tracks are not easy to replicate live. For his concert at Ravenna he doesn’t even try. Instead, he dispenses with his backing band to play acoustic guitar and piano accompanied by an Italian string quartet recruited for a one-off performance. An acoustic light orchestra if you will.

In this show he explores his folk roots with over half of songs coming from earlier records including a couple from 2005’s Frankie Ray that has never been properly released.

For me this was a little disappointing as I was looking forward to hearing the classic retro rock sound in all its splendor. Wilson is still entertaining company,however.

Though born too late to be one of the original Beatniks, he espouses the benefits of weed and still flashes the peace sign like it never really went out of fashion; implicitly posing the question of Nick Lowe : ‘What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love And Understanding?’