Wesley Stace — Late Style
UK musician John Wesley Harding, now a Philadelphia resident, & presently recording as Wesley Stace decided to explore the musical styles he appreciated when he was young. He teamed with David Nagler to record original songs (not covers) in the musical tradition of what left a lasting impression on Stace.
When I first heard him as Harding years ago I thought he’d be a good modern-day balladeer, 50s pop-singer, easy listening crooner, adult-contemporary stylist. The opener “Where the Bands Are,” has a distinctive lyrical-musical tint mindful of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. A team who used unorthodox words, musical forms, & structures in their jazzy concepts. Stace-Nagler did the same nicely with this tune.
Though Stace isn’t Sinatra, he possesses a relaxed impetus of Jack Jones crossed with equal parts of Kenny Rankin & Canadian powerhouse Alfie Zappacosta. Jones was a 60s easy-listening vocalist. But his rock creds from 1965 are evident on “I’m Indestructible.” A hot well-arranged aggressively sung song mindful of where Stace will be.
I remember hearing the Latin-tinged Sergio Mendes Brasil ’66 that Stace applies well to “Everything All the Time.” A quasi-Bossa Nova feel, with 60s female supporting vocalists. As nostalgia, the song works, but younger ears? Won’t work. Too cheesy. “Your Bright Future,” is also in a 60s pop vein but it’s a bracing tale set to a lilting melody. Stace is in fine voice. Deep tones, similar to late-career Alfie Zappacosta. Alfie made a 360 degree turn in his singing style & went softer than what he’d been famous for (“Runaround”). In recent years, he’s gone adult-contemporary with fine results (“Eden”).
Late Style (Drops Sept 10-Omnivore/World Wide Wes) isn’t all 50s pop reimagined. But sugarcoated rockers like “Come Back Yesterday,” are fine but, I’m not a big fan of the 60s female chorus’ loaded with wordless Euro-backup. “The California Fix,” has good piano but it’s cocktail jazz that occupied many Sergio Mendez songs up through the pop of Eternity’s Children (“Mrs. Bluebird”) — which all evaporated.
Stace touches slightly upon another Philly artist with the late Robert Hazard on “Just Sayin’” & it has incipient coolness. His voice is effectively deeper with warmer tones on “All the Yous” which could be a jazz standard. Smooth samba beat, Ray Ellis-type strings (“Lady In Satin”) — it’s exemplary.
The team of Stace & Nagler works well. Tailored for adult contemporary far better than Rod Stewart. Stace has hit upon a good formula based on vintage musical machinery. He’s re-oiled it & captured the charm of the era. Softer than what Bob Dylan attempts to do. Many songs still have too many ribbons & bows. But I’ve never heard a bad Wesley Stace LP. I don’t expect to. A distinctive voice, fluid approach & not afraid to flirt with styles. “The Impossible She” is another beautiful tune.
Live 2017 color photo courtesy: Matt Condon. The 12-cut, 47-minute CD: Produced by David Nagler & Chris Von Sneidern. Available @ https://www.wesleystace.com/