‘Green Man Review” on Candles on the River
Howard Gladstone, is a singer-songwriter from Toronto, Canada. Candles on the River is his second album. Howard handles all the vocals to his songs and plays acoustic guitar. He is accompanied by some excellent musicians, namely: Tony Quarrington on acoustic and electric guitars, lap steel guitar, mandolin, backup vocals and percussion; Dennis Keldie on piano, Hammond organ, accordion, and mandolin; Russ Boswell on bass; and Al Cross on drums. Anne Lindsay adds violin; Eddie Baltimore plays slide guitar; Bruce Longman plays bass; with backing vocals supplied by Clela Errington and Allan Soberman. The musicians do a fine job and there are some good guitar solos and riffs keeping the songs alive.
If you are trying to put Howard and his band into any one category it’s a bit of an odd ball this one. It’s not folk music, it’s not country, it’s not rock or pop as such, it’s just different. Most of Howard’s songs have a bluesy / jazz arrangement to them with an almost lounge-lizard feel. Howard doesn’t really sing the lyrics, but is very laid back and rather narrates them in tune to the music. Nothing wrong with this delivery, it’s just different! He’s what I call a singing poet! Some may find this delivery somewhat clinical, but one advantage is that you can hear every word clearly. Imagine if you can, a newsreader on the TV singing a folk song without any emotion. In truth you will either love it or hate it. However, after listening to the album a few times it does grow on you. After studying the song lyrics, I realised there are some quite good songs here that just need singing. For me, the measure of a great song is one that stays in your subconscious and you find yourself humming the tune after switching of the hi-fi. Sadly none of the songs on this album really did it for me, – but your response may be different.
Having said that, one or two of the songs did stay in my memory and are worthy of an extra mention. They are: ‘Fishin’ by the Book’ a topical song about the over-fishing of the seas, the Spanish still do it, why? ‘Down to the Delta’ reflects the history of the blues and wonders where that music is going. The title track ‘Candles on the River’ has a slight Asiatic (Indian) feel to it — is an eye for an eye the correct attitude to life?