Philip Jeays is one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. Unfortunately this means the world at large is unaware of his wonderful songs. Often compared to Jacques Brel, Jeays writes scathing social commentary, witty tales of life going wrong, and odes to great tragic romance. His seventh record, My Own Way, continues in this grand tradition.
Still The Snow Falls, tender and bare, opens the album. One senses the singer shivering against the cold but determined to let forth his lament, slipping into a gorgeous chorus that hints at the beauty of it all even as it has already passed away. With just voice and acoustic guitar, Jeays covers vast territory, sweeping between personal tragedy and the universal forces themselves. The Wind kicks in with full band, complete with disco horns and strings and a rollicking bassline you can dance to. Quite a departure in sound for Jeays but the theme is familiar – what we cling to in the face of impermanence. Go Now and Newhaven Harbour, both beautiful tales of impossible love, show Jeays at his most Scott Walker-esque, but such a comparison is more to give you an example of the quality and sound, for the art is all Jeay’s own. When Children Are Children voices his disgust at the violence in the world and the men who have never grown up past their childhood games of war, though singing such in full awareness of the hypocrisy of wanting to beat some sense into them. Wishing They Were You is amusing playful jazz, slower but in the style of his earlier Entertaining Miss Steinway and the excellent Cupid Is A Drunkard. The title track is a jaunty Latin-tinged call to mind one’s own damned business. The band joins in in high spirits, the horns betraying the smirks hidden behind Jeays’ cool in dealing with those who expect everyone to fall in line.
The Old White Bull is uproarious irreverent fun, a definite highlight of the record. Jeays’ delivery has always been full of evocative vocal inflections, evidenced here on “itch” and “No”. And as for the wonderful hilarity of the chorus, far be it from me to spoil the delightful surprise. Fairground Rides is a great upbeat pop song. Lyrically it examines the thrills we look to to excite us, finding them all empty and a ‘waste of time’, but the music betrays this, its rush showing there’s still joy to be found in living. The Glorious Dead, with its elements of Rock and Pulp-y chorus, reflects the themes of the whole record, death and the individual, sung with the strength and glory of standing on one’s own. An excellent closing number to a fine record.