Release date: 25th October 2019
Label: Cherry Red Records
New album from acclaimed Chapman stick and bass virtuoso Nick Beggs packaged with two from the archives.
He’s been busy has Nick Beggs. Taking leave of his slot in the Steve Hackett band, he’s been touring extensively with Steven Wilson as well as doing some excellent work on his recent project The Mute Gods, in cahoots with Roger King and Marco Minneman. Their three albums saw Nick assuming the role of Mr Angry, venting his wrath at most if not all things in our crazy mixed-up world. You never would have guessed.
Words Fail Me sounds like more of the same. However, it finds him in a much more placid mood and exploring the sounds of the Chapman stick where he’s become a noted virtuoso. The eight tracks find all facets of the fabled instrument revealed to the extent that non-believers will be scratching their heads at the sounds coming from within.
“There are many composers I’ve admired over the years,” he says as the selection of material he’s chosen to cover offers both a radical diversity and an opportunity to show the versatility of the instrument. In fact, aside from a familiar “baby’s got blue eyes” refrain in the opening track there might not be too much else that actually rings a bell; discovery is part of the fun. To clarify a little, The Rainbow Connection may be familiar from The Muppet Movie and Sheep May Safely Graze is obviously J.S.Bach, as Beggs generates all manner of tones and moods from his stick that very rarely resemble anything bass-like.
Japan’s Night Porter is a perfect choice for a slow amiable and the pace is picked up as Tarantella goes into an almost medieval harpsichord mode. We hit some higher registers and hit the nylon string guitar and Classic FM territory and find ourselves about as far away from the intensity of The Mute Gods as you could be. It’s pretty much an extension of what you’ll find on The Maverick Helmsman album from 2004 where he investigated the boundaries of the stick in solo mode.
The previously mail order only Stick Insect album from 2002 is a different kettle of fish. The solo meanderings of the other two offerings give way to world music and new age, Oldfield like arrangements with the opening Science Fiction giving a glimpse of the world into which we were entering. It’s a much wider musical spectrum as grooves reminiscent of latter-day King Crimson vie with some cooler funk and drums and bass. Occasional moments give an indication of the direction followed on the later two albums and the acerbic Beggs wit in The Last Bitch In Hellville and the electronic poppy Eighties chug on Death By Cleavage.
When you think of solo albums from bass players, the Beggs efforts and the work of Zep’s John Paul Jones (Zooma and Thunderthief) where Beggs was also involved, that give a bit more kudos to bass playing. Adding the two additional albums to Words Fail Me makes this a really extensive package.
Listen to Blue Eyes from the album here: