MATTHEW FISHER: I’LL BE THERE (RCA APL 10325).
THE NAME Matthew Fisher first started to mean something to me when he appeared on that classic first Joe Cocker album With A Little Help From My Friends. I’m afraid this album is likely to leave a much, much lighter impression than that. This set never really lifts off in the way you’d expect from someone with Fisher’s pedigree – it also manages to sound uncannily like his old band Procol Harum in places too, and that doesn’t help any kind of individuality that Matthew may have been trying to attain. The whole show was written and is sung by Fisher and, as you’d expect, he was responsible for the production, which again doesn’t stand up as strong when you think about his work with old mate Robin Trower. The man’s main strength is, of course, his keyboard playing but he doesn’t sound convincing enough as a lead voice. Some of the songs are a little thin, and the overall sound of some of them slow moving and dull. The title track has a fairly dramatic and heavy intro the piano and organ parts very much Procol orientated, with Jim Ryan (bass) and James Frank (drums) getting weightier and more threatening while Matthew echoes away behind the grand keyboard onslaught. Not Her Fault is perhaps the finest track, again its Procol influences – something from Salty Dog? – and here Fisher’s voice and keyboards are at their best, the Pop Art Strings And Brass adding just the right amount of atmosphere. But the effect is spoilt by the following track. Song Without Words is so similar to Fault that the instrumental could have been safely omitted. Matthew switches from Ryan and Frank on some tracks to drummer Alan Coulter and Steve Bingham on bass, as well as using Mike Japp on guitar for a few cuts but it looks as if it was hard to inject enough enthusiasm at times to get I’ll Be There off. Perhaps it’s an album you have to listen to time and time again before appreciating its finer points. If not, this is not a very outstanding piece of recording from Fisher, a man (it seems) who could do a lot better. – Billy Walker.
I'll Be There: the album to which this review relates