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Chris Helme - The Rookery (Little Num Num Music)

Star rating: 

Chris Helme casts aside his earlier collection of acoustic songs that formed ASHES (2008) to make way for what he considers to be his first bone-fide debut album, which features ten original songs and the one instrumental that opens the album. Despite this whimsical opening mellotron-led instrumental, it's Helme's voice that forms the heart of the album; an easily recognisable voice to anyone familiar with The Seahorses, the short-lived Britpop band formed in the mid-1990s by Stone Roses guitarist John Squire, which Helme fronted.

Recorded over nine days in the idyllic setting of The Rookery in the Yorkshire Dales, this highly textured collection of songs clearly demonstrate Helme's command over good melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Opening with the instrumental Pickled Ginger, which Helme refers to as a 'palette cleanser', in effect separating the new from the old, THE ROOKERY continues with one thoroughly engaging song after another. With instantly accessible melodies on such songs as the dreamy Blindeye, Good To Be In Love and Summer Girl, the album at times returns to sort of rock base associated with The Seahorses, particularly on Daddies Farm and The Spindle and the Cauldron, whilst Darkest Days and the atmospheric Beatle-esque Plane confirm Helme's credentials as a major league singer-songwriter.

Co-produced by Helme and Sam Forrest (Nine Black Alps), the album features amongst others, some empathetic contributions from Stuart Fletcher on bass, Gethin Sinkins on drums and in particular John Hargreaves who arranges the strings provided by The Ligeti Quartet, a major contribution to the overall sound.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky