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Greg Harper Greg Harper
Album: In It Together
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.gregharpermusic.com

"In It Together is the new album from Sussex based Greg Harper whose thought provoking, environmentally charged lyrics carry messages of warning but also of hope, because like me he seems to believe that the human race is much better than currently appears to be the case. The album's 12 songs were recorded at White Room Music in Worthing under the tutelage of multi-instrumentalist producer Paul Linale whose light touch seems to blend perfectly with Harper's song writing style.

It will be of little surprise to the listener that Harper was a finalist in the 2008 UK Songwriting Awards. There is a live feel to many of the songs, and it leads me to conclude that Harper's voice was largely recorded in a single take. For me, the stand out songs on this album are actually those where the vocals are enhanced just a touch. "Sweet World" is among those, and presents a statement of intent for the songs to follow. It begins with a slight hint of psychedelia, reflecting something that Donovan might have written back in the day, probably about similar issues. Harper's simple but precise guitar playing and the subtle supportive string accompaniment give this album a perfect start.

"After The Rain" further evokes a '60s spirit, delivering a ballad that expresses Harper's exasperation at the way in which his local environment is being impacted by the wider threat to our planet: 'the Lavant's been dry all summer long' supports the Environment Agency's warning in 2016 that the water courses of south east England are drier than parts of north Africa. This is a minimalistic song whose sombre mood is subtley lifted by Nigel Ratcliffe's piano.

"Unspoken" surprises with an electric guitar introduction, and contains some of the album's best lyric moments: "No more the pear drop drifts of choking cloud / No more the goodnight kiss in a dead man's ground / It's all forgotten now". The song is a gentle warning that if you don't have the courage to raise concerns about the things you feel passionately about you are likely to suffer the consequences of your inaction.

At more than 5 minutes, "Murmurs" feels a little long, but like all of these songs it is lyrically very strong. By contrast, and to lift the mood, "Cynical" is punchy with a light rockabilly pace. Harper considers this might be a single contender had he decided to release a single from the album, and I wholeheartedly agree. This is another song of exasperation, this time commenting on the way in which we are manipulated by politicians and media "the bigots and the blighters and the newshound thieves" pointing a finger at isolationists and their unthinking supporters.

"The River" is another longer track and it has a gorgeous feel to it. If there is a radio edit somewhere this might also be a single contender. So too is "Jezebel", where again Linale adds that light touch of production to the vocal. I love the 'live feel' that Harper achieves throughout this work but there is something very uplifting in the mix of this and the two versions of "Sweet World".

I wonder if "Nightingale" is a song for carers everywhere. Lyrically on a par with "Murmurs", it is a stamp of Harper's empathy, his awareness of the world around him and how it affects the minutiae of our lives. "The Story", like "Cynical" carries a gentle warning, pleading that we should open our eyes, and realise that the things we are taught and the things we are encouraged to believe all too frequently crumble under a challenge. Co-written with Paul Linale, "Sweet World (Reprise)" lifts the mood with a beautiful reintroduction of strings. Some would say that the reprise feels a little out of place, but it provides space for thought from messages of the previous song and I think works really well.

"No Damn Illusion" is the third song that Harper sees as a potential single, but I guess that will depend on his target audience. For supporters of environmental causes he would have a point, but as a more general single release the message is probably a little 'in your face', albeit a necessary wake up call. It's a ballad with the message that we are wrecking our own world - "ravaged the garden, of all that he sowed", but like all these songs it also carries the thought that we can still do something to reverse the decline.

Harper's spirit of optimism and ultimate faith in the human race comes across loud and proud in "Feel The Power", a song of empowerment with a light rockabilly feel. There are a couple of songs on the album where you can almost hear a Buddy Holly voice. What is especially nice here is that the song is fuelled by local references. It seems to be saying that the small improvements we make locally can collectively make a big difference to all of our lives.

This album exudes empathy, and a connection with the world around us. Harper is a consummate songwriter whose lyrics are heartfelt, and deliver his messages with a passion.

John Reed