Review John Apice
Teddy Thompson – Heartbreaker Please
I’m not mentioning who Ted’s related to — but, since his 1st LP in 2000 he has become his own man, his own artist & his own performer. With that said…
The 10-cuts on Heartbreaker Please (drops May 29 – Chalky Sounds-Thirty Tigers) finds Teddy Thompson’s subjects drawn from the demise of a relationship. Maybe a female or just a 20-year residency in NYC.
The British born Thompson is 5-LPs deep into a career now enamored with the typical ‘50s-early ‘60s single pop song as 2-3-minutes of ear-candy. He tries his hand creating absorbing brief period pieces. The songs are his originals in the spirit of Tin Pan Alley-Brill Building resurrected oldies from a basement & never heard before. This is clever stuff.
Cut 1 opens soulfully with a steady 1-2 beat & bright horns. “Why Wait,” is garnished with the angst of Otis Redding or David Ruffin. A groove captured without sounding imitative of a genre basically rare today. While this could’ve been sung by a genial soul singer it could’ve been the J. Geils Band as well.
What’s interesting is how Teddy captures old-soul single “wording” & reapplies it liberally through his own compositions. While Teddy’s voice isn’t forceful as Percy Sledge, gritty as Ray Charles, popish-soul as Teddy Randazzo (the incredible “Let the Sunshine In”). He does have dissonance & stability with his spirited interpretations. At times he seizes the more modern groove of the late Robert Palmer but doesn’t linger there.
“Brand New,” finds his voice superb on a jazz-inflected soul piece. Eric Finland’s piano glides along with Teddy’s angst-filled tone typical of pre-Beatle singles. Teddy (guitars & other bits), Zach Jones (drums), Jeff Hill (bass), Al Street (guitar), Eric Finland (keyboards), arranger Alec Spiegelman & Cole Kamen – provide horns.
What I find is that each original has distinct past inflected flavors in Teddy’s musical bowl. Oh, it’s not plagiarism. But you can tell Ted has taken “something” from favorite songs & mixed it up into a tasty musical cake mix. He made the new ones attractive & refreshing in the old way.
His voice doesn’t punctuate like the late John Prine, Dylan, Buddy Miller, or Paul Hyde — but Ted’s vocals are sincere. Fortunately, he’s not one of those so-often popular weepy, whiney, no power male vocalists that permeates the charts. He has urgency. He’s seasoned.
The nostalgic “Record Player,” one of Ted’s best vocals could be tweaked into a reggae song. “Take Me Away,” with its Gene Pitney spirit is steered by the strings into a more Euro blend. It reminds me of the chansons of the late Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Battisti or Franco Battiato’s NY song (“Chanson Egocentric”).
“It’s Not Easy,” & “Move at Speed,” both seem culled from strident R&R doo-wop stylings with some wonderful sax & early 60s brilliance.
It’s all an interesting listen.
Produced by Teddy Thompson the 33-minute CD is available at https://www.teddythompson.net/