Reviews of Rhys Williams’ album “Great Falls”:
Uncut: “Day-Glo ditties with dark edges…[Great Falls is] a collection of piano-led pop with a sunny disposition belying its brooding lyrical concerns. The instrumentation and melodies travel a path previously charted by Ben Folds or Jellyfish, but with a more sardonic Chris Difford worldview. Confessionals come courtesy of the tender “Diamond Tears” and the country twang of “The One That Stayed Behind”, although the perky “Banknotes” is more typical of Williams’ flighty factory setting. 7/10″
Stereoboard: “a joyous collection of insanely catchy, immaculately crafted songs”.
Get Ready To Rock: “a glorious pop-rock ride from start to finish”.
Album: Great Falls
Label: Right Track
Having made a few dents on the impenetrable hard case of Britpop indie rock with Sheffield outfit The Ankle Stars, landing a management arrangement with Morrissey’s MD Boz Boorer in the process, Welsh singer songwriter Rhys Williams has endured a few slings and arrows in the music biz.He’s been advised by Adam’s original Ants drummer Dave Barbe, played flute for Morrissey on You Are the Quarry album track I’m Not Sorry and spent years paying as many dues as it takes to get an album made these days.
That album is Great Falls and it’s chock-full of melodic, mature, literate and largely thrilling piano-led pop tunes that demand attention. Musically, there’s a bit of an early- to mid-70s thing going on with sonic references to ‘good’ period albums from the likes of Elton John, Wings, Mott, Cat Stevens, 10cc, Steely Dan, even the milder moments of Who’s Next on The Top, a suitably bittersweet dissection of suicide.
Lyrically, that song is in good company as Williams also finds inspiration titty bar politics on Masquerade and Civvy Street alienation in Homes For Heroes, as well as paternal deprivation in Diamond Tears (with BJ Cole’s telling pedal steel presence), financial crisis in Banknotes and romantic disentanglement in Hurricane Jane.
Forget all that ‘guilty pleasures’ nonsense about mid-70s bands that wrote great pop songs and don’t go looking for cool prestige in dropping the name Rhys Williams, but if you like your music laced with great melodies and diverting lyrics sung by a voice that won’t upset your nan (and I mean that in a good way) then you need to hear Great Falls very soon.
Great Falls (Right Track)
As the name may suggest, he’s Welsh, from Caerphilly actually, so drink and music are at the top of his passions, though not necessarily in that order. He writes three minute pop songs that bear a strong imprint of the records he grew up with. All four of them. ABBA’s Greatest Hits, Bridge Over Troubled Waters and the Red and Blue Beatles compilations. He started playing guitar at 15, moved to Sheffield three years later and became a member of the Leadmill’s unofficial house band, The Ankle Stars, in which capacity, he supported the likes of Supergrass, Pulp, Oasis and the Longpigs.
Fame kept its distance but they did impress Morrissey guitarist Boz Boorer who became their manager and put out several of their records on his own label and, when the band finally collapsed and Williams moved to London, invited him to record in his studio. He also introduced him to his boss who ended up getting him to play a snatch of flute (a whole 15 minute session) on I’m Not Sorry off the You Are The Quarry album as well as repeating the feat at the MEN Arena, recorded for posterity on the Who Put The M In Manchester DVD.
All of which makes interesting reading and no doubt a fascinating radio interview, but tells you bugger all about the music. The good news then is that it’s a collection of catchy, slightly 70s American, piano pop songs with Wings era McCartney influences as well as (notably on Homes For Heroes and Banknotes) a touch of early Billy Joel, albeit with a softer, dreamier voice (that certainly doesn’t fit the bearded, becapped face), while Hurricane Jane is like vintage ELO without the orchestral overload. It’s probably just coincidence, though, that the intro to The Top reminds you of Supertramp’s Dreamer and Masquerade has a definite hint of Killer Queen,
A veritable sugar rush of toe tapping melodies and infectious hooks and choruses (with some lovely pedal steel work by BJ Cole), it’s positively exhausting in its musical effervescence, pausing only for breath midway with its slow swaying piano ballad Cressida Road. Lyrically though, it’s a far less lighter proposition with sex, death and heroic failures sharing the thematic content and songs about an estranged Eastern European immigrant father’s drunken fight with his own reflection, an Afghanistan veteran and an ex con sharing a pint, talking a suicide down from a skyscraper, strippers and the men who frequent them and the financial meltdown. Give him a Jools Holland spot and some Radio 2 airplay and there’ll be no stopping him.