John Watts - It Has To Be: Their Stories
John Watts returns with an album of very personal recollections of people whom he met on a rail journey around Europe carried out in early 2006. The idea was to build on the concept of Real Life Is Good Enough both as an album and a theme. It is no coincidence therefore that the covers of both albums are pretty much the same in terms of colour and format. John took the interesting idea of using the month provided by a European rail pass to travel around and meet ordinary people, listen to their stories and turn them into songs. The result is a diverse collection of songs covering a suitably wide variety of topics, but all brought together by a theme of fond recollections and reminiscences.
Musically, the album marks another step forward in John's development away from the post punk of his early years with Fischer-Z, and into an almost folk style of song writing and music. The dominant features of all the tracks are voice and guitar. This is music by and in the tradition of the Medieval troubadour; a wandering minstrel writing about his and others' experiences as he travels the continent. This is as close to your roots as it gets. In another departure, Watts does not write from a sense of his own perspective - his own feelings and experiences - but draws on the feelings and experiences of others and places them in the context of his own music. It was a risky concept, but one which has worked very well.
In a sense this was John Watts returning to the roots, to the people. As if to emphasise this, at the recent concert in London, John could be found sitting on the steps leading down to the basement where a support act was playing watching the support act and enjoying a beer just like anyone else. A more down to earth guy you could not wish to meet. And yet, this is my all time musical hero, a man who had made what I regard as the finest album ever released and the finest song ever written.
The album is by a man who has grown confident of his ability and his subject matter. It is full of good, honest music without any of the pretension and unnecessary flair often associated with a lot of modern music. The production is simple and straightforward - this is how it is: this is how you find it. The subject matter ranges from a meal in a restaurant in Stockholm to the recollections of a personal friend, a one-time catwalk model in sixties London. The backing is minimal and when it exists, is designed only to enhance the effect and deliberately does nothing to detract from the message of the lyrics in each case. If ever there was an album which brought home to the listener, in the most compelling way, what real life means to ordinary people - people like you and I - then this is it. And that is the whole point of the album and the concept behind it. The final track is the only one which does not follow this pattern and is a remix of "What a Time to Live" which first appeared on Real Life is Good Enough.
The sad thing is that this will not be an easy album to find, especially if you live outside Germany or the Low Countries. If you can get your hands on it do so, because whatever your musical tastes, this album will take you back to what is really important in life, our journey through life itself.
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on 2011-03-30 CharlesMartel Said:
John Watts has always been a personal musical icon to me. This album has a unique concept and is at its best in its simplicity. If you can get your hands on this you should check it out.