21 September 2017 (released)
11 December 2017
The process of recording is more transient now than it has ever been. From the dawn of modern rock until roughly 20 years ago, there was a New York sound, a London sound, an L.A. sound. Each region with its own ethos and methods, easily distinguishable in a moments listen. These days, due to the advances in technology, the internet blah blah blah, that distinction has all but vanished. Now the question remains: is there an advantage to recording in one place? Many great albums have been recorded while musicians toured but is it better to set up in one spot and hammer out an album?
Here I Am Again is the second release from Tokyo-based American musician, Arthur Fowler. The album treads the line between blues and jazz with nods to psychedelic guitar soloists and soft rock style vocals. A disparate mix to be sure. Furthermore, Fowler has recorded the first two tracks in America with Chicago-based musicians and the latter three tracks in Tokyo with local artists there. Each part has a distinct feel, though not entirely the stereotypical vision you'd have of music from each region.
The opener and title track is a steady mid-tempo number. Fowler's delivery is matter-of-fact and somewhat awkward. Solo breaks cut in intermittently but become rather repetitive by the end. His playing is solid but the melodic ideas get reused a little too often. The song isn't a strong start, especially since it garners extra focus as the banner of the album. The second of the Chicago tracks, 'Blues For Wesley' picks up some slack. The laid-back number gives Fowler room to spread out and let the instrument really talk. The organ and bass slink along under the radar while bongos and jazzy drums hold down a minimalist rhythm. One is reminded of some of the deeper cuts on Hendrix's Electric Ladyland. Fowler certainly uses his wah pedal in accordance with the psychedelic guitar legend.
The tracks recorded in Japan don't have a particularly “Japanese feel” however, the shuffle that is synonymous with classic Chicago blues melts away to leave more room for ambiance. 'Tick Tock' is a delicate, wee hours of the morning tune. The Rhodes keyboard's round tones meld with slide guitar to create a dreamy, hazy sonic landscape over the tick-tock of the snare rim. A well-composed mood inducing number. Fowler's vocal delivery finds its stride on 'Los Anos' where his meandering style takes on a Paul Simonesque cadence as the music rises and dips like a buoy at sea. Fowler's storytelling guitar takes you on a journey through the years.
Beyond the lacklustre opening track, the rest of the five-track EP weaves a well-balanced mix of blues, jazz, psychedelia and smooth vocals. It's a shame the first track is given such spotlight, being the opener as well as the title track. If it was mixed into an album, it could be overlooked as simply a lesser cut. However, given the focus it has been given, it weighs down the album.