Sweet Baboo - Boombox Ballads (Moshi Moshi)

Sweet Baboo – Boombox Ballads (Moshi Moshi)

untitled (254)Stephen Black has been releasing music as Sweet Baboo since 2004 and this is his fifth studio album. Billed as an album where Black wanted to concentrate more on being a singer than a singer-songwriter, that statement is slightly misleading as the songs have so much detail and love in them, not to mention killer tunes.

And the lyrics. What fantastic lyrics; ‘All I want to do is play you Northern Soul records/ while you’re lying next to me/ till late in the night’. The words spring effortlessly from tender to funny and back again;  just a couple of lines later, Black opines ‘I don’t need to go out/ I’m too old for that stuff!’

Something about Sweet Baboo’s vocal delivery, especially on the track quoted above, (‘Got To Hang On To You’), is reminiscent of Richard Hawley. That may seem like an odd comparison, as their voices are so different. But the way each of them playfully piles words into a space of a song much shorter than they would usually be squeezed into, brings Hawley to mind.

Opener ‘Sometimes’ showcases the brilliant combination of Black’s songs and the fruits of working with arranger Paul Jones; the two compliment each other so nicely. ‘Sometimes’ sets the tone for an album full of really beautiful and really accessible songs.

The highest of many high points comes with the breath-taking fourth track, ‘Two Lucky Magpies’, which genuinely sounds like it could have been penned by Burt Bacharach, but whether Burt’s (lyric) writing partner Hal David would have used the opening gambit ‘My girl she gets her kicks/ by being a part-time impressionist’ is questionable. Only the hardest of hearts wouldn’t be affected by lyrics like ‘I have a girl who I do love/ and for me that is enough’, which appears later in the same song.

‘The Boombox Ballad’ brings with it a change of tone; a short and playful instrumental which rounds off ‘side one’ and sets us up for the album’s arguable centrepiece, the seven-minute ‘You Got Me Time Keeping’, a boy / girl duet with so many dramatic twists and turns, you truly never know where it is going next.

‘Walking In The Rain’ is a country-ish track and a fine example of Black’s skill for marrying an irresistible tune with magical lyrics drawn from the mundane: ‘It’s Wednesday morning/ it’s February 8am…but all that rain outside my door makes me want to move my feet’. You are left praying for a downpour so that you can do the same. ‘I Just Want To Be Good’ sees Black exploring his falsetto range before penultimate track ‘Tonight You Are A Tiger’ picks up the pace and again brings more highly original word-play; ‘Let me be your mammoth and your paleontologist’ is not a lyric that crops up in many songs, you would suspect.

On his single ‘If I Died’ a couple of years ago, Sweet Baboo wryly observed that ‘Daniel Johnston has written hundreds of great tunes/ and I’ve got six/ so I guess that’s some catching up to do’. Well, if that were actually true, and I suspect that he was being modest, then I make the great tune count sixteen once these ten are added.

A completely wonderful record.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.