#102 David Gray – White Ladder (1998)

White Ladder

David Gray was an unheard of British folk artist who had released 3 commercially unsuccessful albums during the 1990’s prior to  self-financing an album that was recorded in Gray’s London apartment in 1998. To support the album, Gray toured the United States with the Dave Matthews Band, whose lead singer Dave Matthews released White Ladder in the United States on his label ATO in 2000 as the label’s first release. It was after the re-release of the album that the single “Babylon” caught fire and huge sales followed. “Babylon” is a little piece of electric folk mastery that cannot be denied. Gray’s voice is that of a comforting narrator painting a picture of a man caught in unemotional, matter-of-fact reflection of his lost love told during an autumn weekend in London. Although people are likely to remember the song for its oft-repeated chorus of ….“let go of your heart, let go your head…”. If you like the sound and feel of “Babylon“, then you will dig all of this offering, because the formula is consistent thru out this disc. The mildly electric folk music and thoughtful, mature lyrics combine to make a stylistic sound that is uniquely David Gray. The sound of his voice and the understated way in which he delivers his songs is much more Bob Dylan than Justin Timberlake, and it suits his music perfectly. The album produced several hits on adult contemporary radio besides “Babylon”. “Please Forgive Me”, “This Years Love” & “Sail Away” all received extensive airplay. There is not much I can say about these 4 songs other than to say they are all classic modern folk tunes and pure gold. As I stated earlier these songs go together so well that it is a wonderful disc to put on and play all the way thru, the album flows from one tune to the next seamlessly. That being said the stand out song among this batch of gems is saved for an epic ending to this offering. It is his epic cover of Soft Cell’s (yes “Tainted Love”, that Soft Cell) early ’80’s UK synthpop hit “Say Hello Wave Goodbye” that leaves wanting more despite clocking in at over 9 minutes. Gray takes an obscure nonsensical pop song and crafts it into an acoustic masterpiece of angst that is his own. It is brilliant, right down to the outro where he starts singing Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” and weaves it into the chorus….beautiful.

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