A few months ago I was lucky enough to be in the studio with the wonderful Lee Martin, who was up in Auckland working with TeMatera Smith on her new album. She had of course brought with her Chris Ward, who plays guitar on that release, and can often be found playing guitars, drums, or whatever is needed for her. At some point Chris’s own album was brought up, and given that I was in the studio for some of that recording as well (produced again by TeMatera, but this time in Christchurch), as well as writing the press release, I was asked when I was actually going to write a review for it? It was then that I pointed out I had never heard a final copy of the album, only the pre-mix tapes, and suggested to Chris that possibly he might put a CD in my post box. After much laughing, Chris felt that it was probably a good idea. I didn’t need to give him my address though, as at one point he was actually my next door neighbour! Next door sometimes need a small explanation when living rurally, so while he did share a boundary fence with me, that was the other side of two paddocks. I have even been known to jump in the car if I wanted to go and have a chat with him, and both of us have got in trouble with our respective wives for spending too long talking when we were both supposed to be doing something else. It was a chance meeting between Chris and TeMatera which led to discussions on an album: apparently when Chris said he lived in Oxford, TeMatera said he had a mate who lived there, never for a minute thinking we lived next to each other.
When I asked him about the album, Chris said “It is in itself a journey through many aspects of life: love, loss, attraction, belief, it’s all there. I’m hoping people will listen to the album from start to finish and be taken on a similar journey themselves. Although we are all individuals, we go through similar experiences, and maybe this album will help guide people through. Music can take you to places and garner emotional responses, thoughts and feelings. It should move you in some way.”
It is one that belongs in the Seventies, rock songs with loads of different styles and feelings. Opener “Run and Hide” is my favourite on the album, and has somehow managed to get itself stuck in my brain and I often find myself singing the opening line to myself. It commences with a mass of instruments and sounds, with sax and Floydian-style female vocals wailing over the top before it breaks to allow Chris to sing, accompanying himself just on strummed guitar. Hammond organ comes in as well, and when he hits the higher notes as he sings “body and soul” one knows there is an epic in the making. It is quite a dense sound when the band come backs in, driving and multi-layered, and certainly does not sound as if it is something from this century as it belongs to a time when music and musicians were treated with dignity and paid their worth.
‘Regular Joe’ is a great title for the album, as what shines throughout is honesty and integrity. Here is someone creating music for no other reason than he has to, and TeMatera heard the songs and just knew he had to be onboard, assisting Chris to create something which has real depth and passion. It is a proper classic rock album, with plenty of female backing singers and different musicians adding their parts, but it is also something that can be stripped back and taken out with just a few other musicians allowing Chris to be centre stage. Here is yet another really strong Kiwi album from someone refusing to pander to fashion, and instead has produced something which is timeless, ageless, and bloody good fun.