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On The Beat: Robert Nichols.

I HAVE been feeling a bit under the weather this week so haven't been out to any gigs.

I wonder if the Beach Boys ever felt like that? Looking out of their T-Bird windows and seeing the rain sheeting down on a battleship grey day, thinking "No surfing today".

Singer/songwriter ANDREW JOHNSON looks out on a cloudy day and pronounces it not a Brian Wilson Day for the first track on his new album release Catching Sparks.

A wonderful song opening the door to a blindingly good album.

Andrew is so talented - and prolific. I reckon he must now be into double figures for the number of album releases he has made it in the past seven years -and they're all quality.

While they are founded around the craft of good songwriting, he never stands still and continually pushes the boat out in new directions.

Catching Sparks sets out its stall beneath cloudy skies on the kind of a day that is a Beach Boys nightmare.

With a dreamy soundtrack, interspersed with barbershop-type listing of cloud types, the music and words just go floating by.

It is absolutely wonderful. Apart from Brian Wilson, there is a hint of Super Furry Animals perhaps and deadpan vocal harmonies of the late, great Beta Band. Above all it is a shimmering, simmering pop classic.

The album doesn't stop there, though. It comes down out of the clouds for many a melancholic reflection on life's more bruising side.

There's the Breakdown victim needing a parmo to get through the night; Taxi Driver has a hint of swing and sleaze - a bit White Town, remember them? There is also a first for me, a song about playing conkers.

It's All Over (A Horse Chestnut) and it is all over when the nut hits the floor and the stamp, stamp, stamp of the feet.

We played no stamps in my school ... in theory.

Andrew veers into disco revival for one last dancefloor run out for the King Of The Disco - extended version, of course.

Hey, what's this? Is it something to keep Rolf and Sir Cliff off the top of the charts - an actual Christmas hit in the offing with The Mistletoe And Me? Well, it should be.

How brave penning a genuine Yuletide cracker all togged up in its festive baubles and glittery excess.

Oh and I love a good bonus track at the end of the album and Gorgeous Marauder is surely a cheeky electro mimic of the father of disco Giorgio Moroder.

Mr Johnson is an exceptional talent, a superb singer, musician and craftsman of pristine pop songs.

One day his supreme songwriting skills will be recognised and his home recorded and home produced back catalogue will keep the record companies busy for a long time.

* * * * * * ANDREW JOHNSON'S Catching Sparks is now available to download globally on iTunes, Amazon, Lime Wire and all over the place.

I don't understand all that new fangled mp3 mumbo jumbo. I'll wait for some sunny day when Andrew Johnson will have his very own shelf in the high street record shops.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 20, 2009
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