The singer-songwriter genre remains as vital in the 2000s as it was when it first emerged in full flower in the early 70s. Case in point – Scotsman Roddy Frame who dropped his better known ‘Aztec Camera’ moniker a decade ago to trade under his own name.
Frame appears on the sleeve of his new album, lines on his slightly weathered face as he approaches his mid-40s, no longer the fresh-faced boy that took the UK pop scene by storm in the 80s. However, his talents remain firmly intact on this, his third official solo album.
With his virtuoso guitar picking, Spanish flamenco leanings and strong pop mellifluence, Frame comes across as a very Euro-centric Lindsey Buckingham, which is an intriguing prospect!
Some may complain that the music on Western Skies is effectively AOR and too mellow for artistic significance. All of which is rubbish of course. Sure, the instrumentation is spare, consisting as it does purely of Frame on guitar/voice backed by the basic foundation of Jeremy Stacey on drums and Mark Neary on upright bass. But the songs are mature, erudite and resonating.
On “She Wolf” performs the role of country-blues troubadour with intense conviction, as Frame sings – “The rhymes and drones of the first real big blues boom/Shake the cones and fill the room/Blind and alone it hides and licks its wounds/Haunts the city, howls at the moon/She wolf, birthing inside of me/Cold rain, never be the same again.”
Then there’s the superb commentary of “Rock God” – “Hippy glam intruder crept past the towers where children slept/And scattered stardust trails between the blocks/Clashing swords in city streets/To a double drummers' beat/As on the corner lovers meet/And kiss just as the power stops, beneath the chemist's frozen clock” as engaging a description of the 70s rock phenomena as any.
Finally, on “Dry Land” Frame reminiscences on his past journeys and regrets his current dryness – “Going through my treasure chest of memories I've stored/I found some eight by tens of the band all looking bored/But the bar was amazing/Two types of chocolate and raisins/If life could taste that good again/I swear I'd never complain.”
Personally, I abandoned Aztec Camera after the magnificent Knife, when Frame eschewed the folk-rock sound for something more akin to American R&B, thus it is refreshing to hear Frame return to his ‘roots’ – especially on the lovely breezy final track, “Portastudio” as Frame warbles “everything’s changed/nothing has changed.”
Isn’t that always the case? A