Toby and the Whole Truth – Ignorance is Bliss (25th Anniversary Remastered Deluxe Edition)
Release Date: 17/07/20
Running Time: 52:17
Review by Beth Jones
The 90’s was a Marmite decade, musically. The rise of the manufactured band and the new waves of Britpop, indie, and mainstream rave was making it an eclectic picture, which you either loved or hated. The punk, glam, and classic metal scene was being driven underground by the polar opposites of kids with baggy jeans and curtains, smoking joints and playing bar chords, or kids dripping in Burberry, dropping Es and ‘climbing the rope’ or ‘stacking the shelves’ until dawn. The industry was fickle, and driven by profit more than ever before, to the detriment of many artists and bands. But if you looked hard enough, you could still find glimmers of hope amongst the detritus.
In 1995, I was 15, and in somewhat of a period of discovery as far as music was concerned. My tastes had begun to grow up from the likes of Take That and Let Loose. It started after hearing Queen, “Greatest Hits”, for the first time, and having an epiphany moment! And thank god it did, hey?! It was also the year Toby Jepson, formerly of Little Angels, released his first solo album, “Ignorance is Bliss”. A couple of years previously, Little Angels had been seen as the most successful group of a generation, but thanks to the greedy and destructive place that was the 90’s music industry, that had all ended in somewhat bitter circumstances. Now, after a quarter of a century, the dust has settled a little and, Toby, now the vocalist with Wayward Sons, has decided to re-release it as a special 25th anniversary edition. It has been remastered for this release, and there’s also a Limited ‘Songbook’ edition with CD featuring all 11 original tracks and two unreleased songs. The book features 36 pages of production notes, hand drawn illustrations, lyrics, song explanations and a forward introduction by writer David Gailbraith (Kerrang!)
Musically, this album leaves behind the safety of Little Angels’ classic Hard Rock style, moving into the darker realms of Alternative Rock with a hint of 90’s Grunge. Not surprising really, given the events that led to the demise of Little Angels, and, I suspect the need to ‘fit’ with the scene back then. But this album has a more mature edge than a lot of the music that was in vogue at the time, and that makes it ageless. It doesn’t feel dated in any way, and its themes are still as relevant today as they were quarter of a century ago; betrayal, sadness and existential angst, juxtaposed with hopefulness and new musical discovery, which really do make it a timeless classic.
It’s littered with catchy riffs, and a hefty dose of distorted fuzz, and is underpinned with intricate bass and robust rhythms. On top of all this sit Toby’s vocals, crystal clear and with just the right amount of edginess and grit to meld in the classic Rock ‘n’ Roll overtones, without taking the sound too far back into the comfort zone of times gone by.
It also has a certain acoustic intimacy about it – all the tracks could legitimately be played acoustically and not lose any of their meaning or feeling. I like this a lot. A few of the tracks have purely acoustic lead-ins, giving them a certain reflective melancholy, which nods to the overarching mood in which these songs were penned. One example of this is track 5, ‘The Wind Blows Hard’. It mixes a 90’s Bon Jovi style, with a more grunge inspired guitar and vocal sound, and classic rock rhythms. It ebbs and flows between acoustic sections and full on crunchy choruses. And just to top it off, there’s also a couple of intricate cross rhythm sections that bring you out of any false sense of security you may have been lulled into. Although it’s hard to single out any favourite tracks on this album, this one is right up there for me.
You should all know by now that I’m pretty fussy on production values when it comes to recorded music. Having not heard this album originally, I can’t really comment on the scale of the improvement that remastering has made, but the production on this release is pure quality. It’s very thoughtful in its placement of sounds, making it full and expansive, and dynamically everything is placed perfectly to create a very balanced and rounded sound. And every time I listen to it, I hear something new!
I’m going to shut up now. You can probably tell I quite like this album! All I’ll say is, if you liked elements of the 90’s, but need something a bit more grown up, thoughtful, and edgy, and appreciate talent and superb production, then this is definitely an album you should check out.
01. Some People Are More Equal Than Others
02. Better Off Without Me
03. Slipping Through Your Fingers
04. Haven’t Got Your Strength
05. The Wind Blows Hard
06. All Heal In Time
07. I Won’t Be With You
08. Save Me From Myself
09. Out Of Sight Out Of Mind
10. Harder All The Time
11. Open Your Mind
12. Get Your Feet On (Previously Unreleased)
13. Spiritually Bankrupt (Previously Unreleased)
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