Something that is becoming increasingly rare in today’s music industry is the Short Album. With CD capacity expanding and digital space almost limitless, artists seem hellbent on filling as much room as possible with their thoughts and ideas whether or not all of those ideas were especially good ones. It’s as if a fear has gripped recording types the world over, inducing a panic that if they increased the quantity then nobody would notice the quality if the latter was cause for concern.
There’s nothing wrong with a proper Long Player – there are some great and classic sprawlers out there, both past and present, as well as some briefer works that could have been better for having a bit more going on. But back in the days when an album’s worth was judged on something to do with maximising the sound potential of the grooves on a 12″ record, and more importantly if it could fit on one side of a C90 cassette (a philosophy somewhat at odds with the “Home taping is killing music” ethos of the time, but hey – you couldn’t take a record player to the park), the emphasis was on a maximum 45 minutes’ worth of brilliance, with any extra stuff squirrelled away for future single-based usage.
Due to the somewhat silly rules applied by whoever it is that presides over eligibility for UK record sales charts, the shortest official Long Playing album I own is Nuclear Assault’s Good Times Bad Times – which is five tracks and seven minutes, 27 seconds long. Which, if nothing else, is handy for timing boiling rice.
Less silly examples of more “proper” short albums that are so perfect in length are Slayer’s Reign in Blood (which in fairness was probably an hour-long epic when they started, before they decided to see just how fast they could do it), Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, The Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray and Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence – all of which clock in at under half an hour. Any longer would just be over-egging the pudding. And this new one from Kentucky’s Daniel Martin Moore, from an idea plucked from the ether when sat at an old piano, fits the bill of being more than good enough to know exactly how to pitch a record that is exactly as long as it should be. Which is a lot more than can be said for me when it comes to hammering out overlong preambles such as this.
One thing that seems to be guaranteed with a Daniel Martin Moore album is a story. With Stray Age, it’s the fairytale of winging a demo to a record label to see what would happen. With Dear Companion, it’s a coming-together of talents via myspace (younger readers may need to ask their mum and dad about that) with a shared concern for their backyards.
And with this new one, it’s an album born from sitting down at an old piano for a radio session and being transported to a world of the music that surrounded and guided a younger Daniel to wherever he went then and may still travel now. And with hardly any fuss or prewarning, here we have this new recording as brief in the making (recorded in a shade over a fortnight) as it is in the execution, with not a single note or breath wasted over its half-hour performance.
Of the eleven tracks here, five of them are original compositions, with the remaining six coming from various artists from a time and place that I must confess to having no idea about (although I’ve heard a few things from this “Traditional” chappie before), but all songs on In The Cool Of The Day, old and new, share the same relaxed and carefree approach to life and spirituality that can’t fail to enchant (is spirituality allowed to enchant? I’ll have to check) and soothe, as well the new songs being so authentically composed that it is impossible to tell without resorting to the booklet (part of a beautifully-designed CD package, it has to be said) which tracks are new and which have come from other eras.
Each song seems to touch on a different aspect of Daniel’s spiritual makeup – the almost hymnal Softly and Tenderly sits nicely in between the gentle gospel swing of Up Above My Head and the lament of the album’s title track. The overall feeling that the listener may well take from this album is a sense of contentment – not exactly the most visceral of emotions that one may glean from a record, but something that nonetheless will move in subtle ways, and may well surprise the cynics among us (like me).
It also sounds like something made with and amongst old friends, with several from his previous two albums involved, lending an air and delivery of Daniel’s vocals that seem even more relaxed and free than on previous recordings.
This is a rather personal album. It reaches back into a youth spent listening to records from parents and siblings, recalling a warmth and joy of youth and the paths and discoveries that it brings. Maybe not for everyone to listen to of a Friday evening prior to popping out for a large one, but it’ll be there to ease you gently into the next morning and beyond. For anyone who has completely worn out their copy of Mark Lanegan’s I’ll Take Care Of You, this is a more than worthy musical heir, and yet another reason for Daniel Martin Moore’s popularity to rise further.
Sidenote: I should point out that I am a wholly unreligious person brought up in a wholly unreligious house, which I have to say that I’ve always been rather happy about. If my inate lack of talent was of no obstacle, my own album of “things played on the stereogram as a child” would comprise The Carpenters (courtesy of my Mum), David Soul (Sister’s choice), Smokey Robinson (from my Brother’s collection) and the only two songs I truly recall my Dad ever listening to – Slowboat to China by I know not who, and Chanson d’amour from the Manhattan Transfer. On the rare occasion I was allowed to operate the unwieldy piece of awful furniture that was the Living Room Record Player/Sideboard Combo, it’d probably be Womble-related.