It has been a tumultuous ride for Dandenong born singer/songwriter Daniel Merriweather. Discovered reasonably young, Merriweather was heralded as the next big thing before he’d even hit the recording studio, placing much pressure for him to deliver. First single City Rules showed a promising and soulful talent, but the single itself bombed, scraping into the ARIA Top 100. Amazingly, Merriweather was plucked from obscurity by current go-to-guy Mark Ronson for his debut album, Here Comes The Fuzz. Second single (off Ronson’s album), She Got Me didn’t fare much better commercially but Merriweather was nominated for two ARIAs, winning one of them for Best Urban Release. Despite this, Merriweather’s debut album The Fifth Season was shelved during production and never saw the light of day.
Flash forward to 2008. Mark Ronson (a champion for Merriweather’s talent) recruited him once again for second album Version, a bona-fide hit thanks largely to Stop Me, a re-working of The Smith’s classic Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before. Due to a combination of Ronson’s excellent horn-propelled production and Merriweather’s outstanding vocals, the song went on to hit no.2 on the UK singles charts. Merriweather’s obscurity was now a thing of the past. A year later, Daniel Merriweather’s second album (the first to be released) is just hitting the shelves and there’s good news – It has Mark Ronson’s fingerprints all over it.
Change is an obvious choice for first single. It’s a catchy jingle, with strong presence from Ronson’s signature horns and stirring piano riff. Great song but not even an album highlight. Second single, the ballad Red, is exceedingly moving. The vocals in typical Merriweather fashion are affecting, while the acoustic strings and thrashing percussion intertwine perfectly with haunting lyrics, “I can’t do this by myself, all of these problems are all in your head, and I can’t be somebody else, you took something perfect and painted it red.”
Mercifully, the most impressive aspect of Love & War is consistency. This is an album encrusted with highlights. Could You is an update of The Mamas & The Papas California Dreamin’, but Merriweather’s professionalism keeps this way out of pub cover territory, it holds its own. Merriweather enlists Adele’s trademark vocals for the morose yet notable ballad Water and the Flame. Album closer You Don’t Know What Love Is – another highlight – resonates with the Southern bluesy guitar jam of Sweet Home Alabama. Getting Out highlights Ronson’s admirably funky choice of percussion while All of the People desperately tries to play out like a modern When Doves Cry – unsuccessfully.
Then there’s Cigarettes. A song that so perfectly encompasses the feeling of the album – Another bluesy outing, it contains saloon-styled pianos, an explosive final chorus utilising saxophones and gospel backup and beholds the best vocals on the album. What really seals the deal is the final line of the song, a truly bizarre romantic sentiment, “’Cause my clothes smell like cigarettes and they used to smell like you.”
Love & War is a triumph. Typically Ronson produced, it’s a melting pot of genres and instruments. A soulful and profound yet brassy and funky album – So far one of the year’s best.
Key Tracks: Cigarettes, Red, Getting Out, You Don’t Know What Love Is
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