One of the biggest surprises that I've had after the release of Nick Heyward's new album is people that I know saying that they are surprised at how good he is. I thought most of my circle knew that, yet there are still people who think of him as the youngster in a cricket jumper who was around for a bit in Haircut 100.
People still associate him with the Teen Pop of Love Plus One and either assume what followed was more of the same or the end of it all. Incidentally, Haircut 100's second album, without Nick, Paint And Paint has recently been released as a 2 disc affair by Cherry Red and that's excellent too.
After that splendid first Haircut 100 album, Heyward released three great solo albums in the 80's to diminishing returns. However he returned in 1993 and we all know how modern music writers think music began with Brit Pop and Oasis and Blur, so someone may remember his return as all references lately seem to start at that point.
The one great thing about Brit Pop was the Pop around the edges. There was plenty of it if you listened, most notably by the likes of Dodgy, The Bluetones and The Supernaturals, but much more too. One such inspiring album was the poptastic From Monday To Sunday from Nick Heyward. It lit up the year.
It was all jangly and wonderful with the lead single, He Doesn't Love You Like I Do and the magnificent Kite. This was followed by the equally ace, Tangled and the The Apple Bed, which could be my favourite album on the Creation label. The latter was released in 1998 and until now it was his last solo affair.
He released an album of poems narrated by Greg Ellis in 2001, Open Sesame Seed and the excellent collaboration with India Dupre, The Mermaid And The Lighthouse Keeper. There has never been a drop in quality, so the hope was that his anticipated return wouldn't be a let down. Well it isn't, not in any way.
Woodland Echoes is a brilliant listening experience. It's also very a much more reflective affair, reflective in a way that something like XTC's Skylarking is. It is also an album of two halves. Lots of different styles, but the jaunty pop that most fans adore is all in the second half.
Before you get to that, there are some fine songs to get your ears attuned to. The McCartney Beatles strum of Love Is The Key By The Sea with some great harmonies, the Country Folk of Mountain Top, the shuffle of Who? and the funky backdrop of The Stars. All are great songs.
It's that second half of the album that brings that seductive pop, Baby Blue Sky and in particular, the magnificent Perfect Sunday Sun. The latter could be the best thing Heyward has ever written with it's jangle hook and lyrical depth. It's a crackerjack of a song.
Ass to these two gems, more jangle and an infectious chorus on on I Got A Lot and the captivating love song, I Can See Her and you have a real feel good, beautifully written album. That's even without mentioning, the sweeping Jayhawks like closer, For Always.
You can always tell how good an artist is by the price of their Back Catalogue on Amazon. You won't pick up any Nick Heyward CDs up for buttons.
You can buy the album everywhere and there are some special editions here. I should also give a mention to a recent Live Show that you can watch online or on some UK TV Platforms. The set for Vintage TV is excellent. Vintage TV is really providing some great Live stuff. It's not the rubbish cut and paste video site that it used to be. You can watch the set here.
You can hear 30 second sound samples of each track here. There are also videos for Baby Blue Sky and Mountaintop here.