Ralegh Long – Upwards Of Summer

Ralegh Long – Upwards Of Summer

Despite receiving a high degree of critical acclaim from both national press and radio quarters for his debut album, the pastoral singer-songwriterly Hoverance, Ralegh Long experienced something of personal negative reaction. Worn down by the demands of ‘the biz’ he considered calling things a day. Upwards Of Summer is, then, an album that nearly didn’t happen and comes courtesy of Long’s sudden, reinvigorating, rediscovery of the joys of his earliest musical loves.

Discarding the introspective pianos, woodwind and strings of his debut, Long picks up the pace here with an elegant yet full-blooded blast of pure neo power-pop. Despite its emotional genesis in doubt and disillusionment, Upwards Of Summer comes over as quite a thoughtfully designed album. It’s the sound of the musician, with several strings to bow, considering not only what he can do but what he should do. Long, already recognised via Hoverance as a melodicist of some talent, is also of an age and not unphotogenic. It may have occurred that a crossover into more fully commercial territory, while retaining his indie roots, is up for grabs. Indeed, Upwards Of Summer is tonally reminiscent of those happy-few indie bands of previous decades that would occasionally scrape and shimmy their idiosyncratic way into the ‘old’ Top 30. Hurrah that they did and that the likes of Long may, now, be willing to brave a little touch of genuine ambition. While indie’s just-doing-it-for-fun comfort zone holds a good deal of its charm there is, after all, a much bigger world out there.

Upwards Of Summer presents a type of pop/rock classicism that justifies itself by its high quality, hook-laden, and sometimes anthematic song structures and revives the form by virtue of enthusiastic, energetic freshness. Reference points for what’s going down, here, are more than plentiful but rather depend on your age for useful application. Personally, I’m picking up on 10,000 Maniacs, The Go-Betweens, an occasional touch of Hefner in the vocal stylings, Prefab Sprout and, the rightly adored but never too often sourced as an influence, Big Star. Most especially though, and at the risk of whimsy, I hear an Anglo version of late ’70s Tom Petty. Because, like Petty’s early output, this album just lives to be great ‘car music’.

Flag-ship song of the album is the opener, the FM-friendly (and Elton John Beats1 radio show championed) euphoria that is “Take Your Mind Back”. In its blend of punchy mid-‘80s drums, delicately saturated electric guitars and insistent chorus, it’s pretty much a one track summation of all the best qualities present on this collection. Polished without straying into slickness it establishes, in its thoughtful mood of life affirmation, Long’s overarching lyrical theme of rejuvenation. Also in the highlights section fall is “Take It”, wherein a Darren Haymanesque melody, providing another of Long’s trademark economical and punchy choruses, wraps itself around a classy and intriguing chord sequence reminiscent of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass era. The moody English folkyness of “Big August” pleases, as does the title-track itself, a beautifully choppy rhythmic offering containing some of the album’s most picturesque and emotional lyrics and an excellently judged end of song vocal drop-out which leaves a sublime pedal steel guitar part to soar and steer the listener home.

In the main, Upwards Of Summer maintains a high consistency of song quality. What is slightly lacking, though, is a sense of wildness, pretty much due to fact that while power-pop is a pleasantly assertive genre it is also quite rule orientated. It doesn’t much bend to the touch of the eccentric or weird. The other caveat is that the lyrical concern of personal rediscovery and reflection runs throughout, making it an album of a good story but very much of one story.

While Upwards Of Summer doesn’t quite hit every target that it aims at, its heart is full, its bones are made and it signals Ralegh Long to be a genuine player in heartfelt commercially-tinged melodic indie. More and better yet to come, I think.

Make It New Records