George Ezra • Wanted On Voyage • Columbia • US Release Date: January 27, 2015
It’s a shame that singer/songwriters don’t receive more attention these days. Some of the most authentic music hails from those who ‘go against the grain’ and compose thoughtful, personal music. Think about a song like “Take Me To Church” written and performed by singer/songwriter Hozier. Doesn’t that record have much more depth than so many others on radio? That’s why the singer/songwriter deserves more respect and attention as they offer something others don’t. UK singer/songwriter George Ezra has definitely ‘got next’ in that department, and his debut Wanted On Voyage makes a remarkable first impression.
“Blame It on Me” opens Wanted On Voyage energetically, with Ezra flaunting off his robust, baritone pipes. A sound first impression, instantly Ezra’s musicianship and artistry is conveyed to the listener as his voice shines. Baritones are truly hard to come by these days! Ezra continues to flex his pipes on standout single “Budapest,” previously a free single on iTunes to build buzz around the artist. Buzz it incites indeed as the songwriting is top-notch, and as thick as Ezra’s voice is, he exhibits exceptional control.
“Cassy O’” follows and fails to miss one beat. A fun record with an infectious folksy groove, you can’t resist tapping you foot and singing along. “Cassy O’ / Cassy O’ / Please don’t leave,” Ezra sings resolutely on the simple yet addictive chorus. He follows with “Barcelona,” which he likens to a genuine relationship as he sings, “Every time you have to go / shut my eyes and you know / I’ll be lying right by your side / in Barcelona.” Much mellower than the in your face “Cassy O,” “Barcelona” serves as a sincere, beautiful contrast.
Among the best songs of the albums comes next with the tropically infused surefire hit “Listen To the Man.” Sure part of the allure is the visual with actor Sir Ian McKellan making an guest appearance in the video, but still, the song itself is novel and magnificently fun. Much like opener “Blame It On Me,” Ezra shows marvelous control of his husky voice, never being over aggressive, but showing admirable poise.
The spectacular continues to be so on “Leaving It Up To You” with Ezra remaining on autopilot. There even a subtle touch of vocal effects after the chorus, if the listener listens closely. The best line: “It’s a damn good job he isn’t here or I may have wind up harming you darling.” For as much is as made of Ezra’s baritone at it’s deepest, his upper register on the hook is beautiful.
“Did You Hear the Rain?” opens enigmatically with Ezra using his monstrous instrument superbly on a chilling a cappella intro. After the initial statement, the groove and tempo kick in, adding more stability though not erasing a mysterious, haunting nature. Again on the chorus, Ezra shows how well he facilitates in his falsetto. On “Drawing Board,” the contrast from minor to major key returns Ezra to a ‘feel good’ place as does “Stand By Your Gun,” where the singer/songwriter opts for lighter fare and ranges from low, middle, and once more his compelling falsetto.
“Breakaway” exhibits fine pacing, taking its time to percolate, gradually increasing in scope in regards to production and growing dynamically. Penultimate joint “Over The Creek” doesn’t supplant previous cuts, but continues to play to the singer/songwriter’s strengths. Closer “Spectacular Rival” caps things off things in epic fashion, contrasting everything that precedes it.
Overall, Wanted On Voyage is a fantastic debut album from George Ezra. While it’s unlikely to receive the attention it should stateside, it’s definitely among the bright spots of Winter 2014 releases. As already iterated many times, Ezra’s voice is unique – it truly deserves to heard by the masses. And the material throughout Wanted on Voyage is strong through and through.
Favorites: “Blame It On Me,” “Budapest,” “Cassy O’,” “Listen To The Man,” “Did You Hear The Rain”