Rosalie Cunningham – Two Piece Puzzle: Album Review

Join us on a carousel of kaleidoscopic glee as Rosalie Cunningham as she trips down the rabbit hole.

Release Date: 22nd February 2022

Label: Esoteric Antenna

Format: CD / LP / digital

There must be something prophetic, probably beyond me, that goes with the 22/2/22 release date. It’s quite close to the superstition of the 222 ‘double Nelson’ score in cricket (Google it…), but it’s exactly that sort of quirk that saturates Two Piece Puzzle.

It’s an album that’s already had the early reviews dripping in. Reviews that are overwhelmingly positive and saturated with superlatives. Not that we’re bandwagon jumpers here; we’re more than capable of making up our own minds, but we’re actually going to join the legions of Rosalie Cunningham flag-wavers, don our rose-tinted specs and sing the praises of Two Piece Puzzle. It’s a triumph daaarling, even though Grammarly keeps wanting to add a hyphen to ‘two-piece’…

So let’s start with the corners, something that Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll might say, or even Start With The Corners, the brief opening musical fanfare. A phrase that might be the magical four words that take us through the looking glass or down the rabbit hole. Indeed the very notion of a two-piece puzzle is most peculiar. Curiouser and curiouser no less as the flow of musical ideas and diversions that follow are a phantasmagorical trip through a friendly and occasionally bizarre fantasy land.

The music, as Rosalie would probably admit, owes some debt to those influences that have parked their bikes in the Cunningham consciousness and arrives fully formed and built from a series of demos compiled with Rosco Wilson (although I’d like to think it was his alter ego Rosco Levee). Tull-y riffs, Doors-y organ runs and Beatle-y shifts of focus all dip their toes in an album that flows like an album from the days (thank you for them btw…) when Ray Davies penned his quintessentially English Kinks classics.

Overture dusted off and curtains thrown wide, a carnival parade of unusual characters sees encounters with Donovan Ellington (and Donny Part 2) and the exotic Tristitia Amnesia (not ‘Trististia‘ – come on PROG, get the spelling right…) on a magical mystery tour via a Sgt Pepper outcast one-man band and oops-a-daisy skips.

With a carousel sway that evokes thoughts of Mr Kite, the kaleidoscopic arrangements come thick and fast. Perhaps the missing link between Rosalie Cunningham past and present is Suck Push Bang Blow; one that’s a teeny bit cosmic amidst the swaggering 70s Prog/Glam vibe and the psychedelic wig out of the twisting guitar break that winds up the track

The mid-album highs of Tristia Amnesia and Duet both offer up variations on the experience of not knowing what to expect around the next corner, or in the next twelve bars; the latter switching from a multicoloured romp to something a tad more menacing – probably where nothing is real. Talking of which, the spirit of something exotic and mystical ghosts into view, (full of Eastern promise for those who recall the Turkish Delight ads) to introduce the former, but loses out to a sweet singalong. Typical of that rollercoaster of moods in several of the tracks that see changes of direction as standard.

Neither is Rosalie averse to throwing in a few curveballs with The War spoken word diversion (or is it the sound of Alice dreaming?) and the acoustic musing of God Is A Verb. Scared In The Dark meanwhile, conjures thoughts of the days when a Queen album would leave you guessing as to whether they were a Hard Rock band or if the snippets of music hall and vaudeville delivered with a theatrical panache were false clues.

You have to love (as we did) the sudden McCartney-Lennon-like shift into the see-saw rhymes when the lounge jazz of The Liner Notes threatens a false ending yet kicks back in with the wonderful nonsense (or is it?) “over and over, the White Cliffs of Dover and back again“. Like George Martin has been task with patching two two songs together, promptly slicing the tape and splicing one part slap bang in the middle of another. Hey presto! It works!

And on that note of experimentation with the organic and the nostalgic, don your velvet catsuit, switch off The Avengers and segue seamlessly into Two Piece Puzzle. Admire amazing feats from the one, the only, Rosalie Cunningham, performing feats of unexcelled and unparalleled greatness.

Here’s Duet – Rosalie Cunningham (featuring Rosco)

Rosalie Cunningham online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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