My Glass World is, a shifting sand of top musicians with one man in charge. Initially a pianist, Jamie Telford has worked within many musical fields in his long career. He has played on Top 10 hits with The Jam, experimented with electronics, scored theatre music on a world tour of ‘Hamlet’ and classical music and made music for ads and film. A Scot in London, his home country has played its part in influencing the album, from its poetry to all its musical signposts. The latest My Glass World album A Handbook of Roses is his most realised, expression of this musical and lyrical vision to date
Jamie would be the first to point out that A Handbook of Roses is not the product of just one individual. Working closely with engineer and musician Sean Read, whose credits in production and engineering include the likes of Edwyn Collins, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Sean and Jamie produced, recorded and mixed the album in two short runs spanning under two months from start to end in his Famous Times Studio in Hackney. ‘Sean and I are simpatico, we didn’t have to talk, it just happened. He humanises things, which is what I want,’ said Jamie
That shared purpose began with the ideal of freedom that characterises the entire collection. Songs can breathe, melodies are set free and each individual track stands on its own merits whilst dovetailing into its companions. The guiding principle established was that every song should only last as long as its musical interest could be sustained. This approach has created a group of songs that are, by turns, deeply emotional, tender, lovelorn and bittersweet yet shot through with humour. They containing more than the odd lyrical swipe at those deserving of it, affirming an idea of music as the great communicator that is at the heart of Jamie’s thinking: ‘Of course, music has power, everything bleeds into raising consciousness. I do believe you can shift the way people think with the right song and the right lyric.’
The pair have created an album that refuses genre, encompassing those country tinges, jazz rhythms, and Stax era horns, possessed of soul throughout; seeking out the right mood for each song rather than looking to create a monolith. Working with and hiring additional musicians via friends and connections who can as Jamie describes ‘play really well and turn on a sixpence’ has allowed such moments as the breakdown that closes Love’s Not a Four Letter World to be less an exercise in showcasing proficiency and more a genuine expression of the emotion running throughout the tune and its lyrics.
Working with such talent has enabled Jamie to marry lyrics to music. With I’m Not in Love with America and Number One Dude in Town he mines an early 70’s West Coast sound to illustrate the tales of a crumbling superpower and its new commander in chief respectively. But this is not pastiche. These experiments in repowering Steely Dan’s idea of balancing instruments and drawing expression from various musical genres or the blue-eyed soul of opener A Handbook of Roses, that gives the album its title, deliver an over-riding emotion of joyful expression. Jamie’s constantly creative mind searches out new ways to tell his stories.
‘You can listen to something from forty years ago and it still works, it still sounds right. That’s the area I am looking to work in, making it sound right, simply or with more complexity, rather than worrying as to whether it sounds current,’ notes Jamie.
And, in that sense, you could call A Handbook of Roses an album of classic song writing. Which would, as far as its creator is concerned, be the highest compliment you could pay it.