Longman is an English musical collective that recently changed their name after guitarist Andy Cheetham sadly passed away. They cite as influences “acoustic, electronic, rock and reggae from the ’70s to modern times. Tracks move from reggae (to) rock, along with folk and progressive to fuse something unique and original.” I found their whole approach quite similar to New American Hustle, from the wild try-anything dub mixes to the striking album artwork (credited to Charlie Elms).
The band members are Matt Telling (drums/arrangement), Nick Heasman (vocals/harmonica), Simon Wong (vocals/guitar/keys/arrangements), Nick Cooper (keys/guitar), Mick Williams (bass/guitar) and Howard Smith (electric guitar). The album was recorded, mixed and produced at Loopmasters Studio, Brighton, UK.
“Lazy Susan” is a mid-tempo rocker that opens the set with throbbing basslines, mournful harmonica and sardonic vocals, which alternately whisper and plead out the lyrics. Killer phase-y guitar lines sneak back and forth across the stereo spectrum. The electronic keys provide a percolating retro-pop background. “Victory is a Moments Peace” is pure reggae with dub-style vocals and pronouncements: it’s a political tune inspired by “seeing how sycophantic politicians lack integrity and substance.” Nice sharp beats and smooth overdriven guitar figures here. “City Life” is another reggae workout heavy with phased electronics and chanted english-accented vocals that are hard to resist. The bass is noteworthy here with the smooth harmonics and overtones of a standup bass.
“Echoes” speeds things up somewhat while appropriately retaining that echo-drenched dub background. Still recognizably reggae, this song has a funk quality in the guitars and keys. “No Separation” has a great pulse-like beat with a Peter Gabriel-style vocal. The “no separation” here is the relationship between humans and the earth where we originated from. “We forget (this) to our own peril; what we do to the planet, we do to ourselves as we’re connected to everything.” It’s nonetheless an upbeat, danceable tune in a minor key. “I am you, you are me / the land, the sun, the stars, the sea.”
In Celtic and Viking mythology, a “Selkie” is a seal-human hybrid, and the tales frequently involve female selkies “being coerced into relationships with humans by someone stealing their sealskin. In (this) song it’s the selkie alluring the male into the water like a siren or mermaid. The deep water and seals off Mull inspired this one.” The song they’ve fashioned around this myth is fast, funky and engaging with jittery guitar and cyclical female background vocals filling out the edges.
The title track “Stand or Fall” is the last known recording of late member Andy Cheetham on acoustic guitar, and it’s a solid bluesy performance reminiscent of early Fleetwood Mac. The band surround Cheetham’s surviving track with a loving instrumental embrace and touchingly personal lyrics:“For when time is done and your life is gone / I’ll shine that light for you good and strong / Blaze the fire all night long / Yes my brother / We stand as one / We’ll fall as one.”
Except for the final track, there really wasn’t much folk on this album and not a lot of progressive either, but Longman’s style of funky reggae kept me smiling all the way through.
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