John Cee Stannard – When The Time Is Right: Album Review

When The Time Is Right is a beautiful sign-off from John Cee Stannard; a marvellous musician and achieved with the help of a fantastic band.

Release Date: available now

Label: Cast Iron Recordings

Formats: DL / CD

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote in my review of the late John Cee Stannard’s Folk Roots Revisited album that the album was “A fine memoir of a fine songwriter.”  Whilst I stand by that statement, it appears that I was premature in closing the book on this veteran performer. His new album, When The Time Is Right has followed hot on the heels of Folk Roots Revisited and this one really is a cracker. 

The album is dominated by 1950s-style jazz/blues fusion and features a stellar band which includes Mike Baker (guitar), Craig Broadfoot (keyboards), Spencer Couzens (guitar), Matt Winch (trumpet), Nick Pentelow (saxophones) and some wonderful backing vocals from Julia Titus, Val Cowell and Liza Marshall.  From start to finish, the album is a pleasure to listen to.  The band’s enjoyment in playing these carefully structured tunes is palpable and brushes off thoroughly onto the listener.

Shuffling, brushed drums, delicious trumpet, marvellous sax and tremendous piano are all served in generous dollops throughout the album.  Every song includes at least one instrumental break, and they’re marked in the lyrics section of the accompanying booklet, so that you can look forward to them – they really are that enjoyable!

As was the case with Folk Roots Revisited, there are several songs on this latest album that saw their genesis at the songwriting course that John attended at Totleigh Barton in Devon during August 2019.  In fact, five of the eleven songs that John wrote whilst on that course are featured on this album.  These include Biscuits At Two, a song that describes John’s midnight feasting habits over a tasty, jazzy backing which is enhanced by a tremendous sax break from Nick Pentelow.  Upstate New York is a Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin pastiche which evokes the golden 40s/50s feel of black and white movie Manhattan, with Dean Robinson’s shuffling drumbeat and Matt Winch’s trumpet adding to the vision of the skyline. 

In the past, I have expressed reservations about the suitability of John’s voice to some of the subject matter he chooses for his songs. However, on Upstate New York, as well as on Biscuits at Two, Devil Behind Closed Doors, and Why Did It Take So Long? this potential pitfall is avoided by the contribution of his backing vocal team whose harmonies and shared lead vocals help to ‘Americanise’ John’s otherwise very ‘English’ vocal style.

Elsewhere on the album, Nothing In The World is a touching and heartfelt ode to John’s longtime partner, Angie.  Lovely piano and harmonica add to the yearning effect and the brilliant instrumental break in which piano, guitar and trumpet all share the spotlight adds the finish to an excellent song.  Late In The Evening was written especially for the album to give Howard Birchmore a platform from which to display his harmonica pyrotechnics.  Devil Behind Closed Doors is a tasteful blues number with lyrics that John suggests might (or might not) be autobiographical and Why Did It Take So Long? is a mellow ballad, co-written with Rosa Rankin-Gee during the writing course.

Arguably, the strongest and most enjoyable track on this splendid album is the title track, When The Time Is Right.  Everything comes together on this track to deliver a classic jazz/blues fusion with outstanding piano/trumpet backing, all topped off with some soaring guitar work during the instrumental sections.  This is an album packed with songs that would slide perfectly into a smoky, sweaty pub room environment. 

Sadly, John’s tragic passing cruelly deprives us of the opportunity to enjoy that experience any longer, but if I could enter a plea for his band to consider getting together for that purpose?  I, for one, would certainly be there.

Folk Roots Revisited was indeed a fine memoir of a fine songwriter and When The Time Is Right is a beautiful sign-off from a marvellous musician, achieved with the help of a fantastic band.

Listen to John Cee Stannard and Blues Horizon going down the blues trail on Stone cold Sober here:

John Cee Stannard online: Website / Facebook / Twitter

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