Album Review: Stephen Cummings – Prisoner of Love

Prisoner of Love sounds as if it could have been made in the eighties, but at the same time sounding so timeless. An album reeking of rejuvenation, confidence, humour – an album that is so accessible and enjoyable on the first listen. Of course the ache and impatience is still there – but at the same time he sounds so content.

Prisoner of Love is an album that you will want to play again and again and again.

YMR Album Rating: ***** (5/5)

Prisoner of Love clocks in at 32 minutes, ten short songs that glow, bounce and move with a sense of dynamism, renewal, and tongue firmly in cheek. It shifts in moods, but there is an overall feeling of excitement – an energetic vibe that has Cummings writing succinct songs that illuminate and are genuinely uplifting.

The album starts with the jangly ‘Life Moves On’ – delivered with shades of Bowie and even a bit of Lennon – has Cummings reflecting on “what seems painful/can pay big dividends”  – with the old sage pondering on the shortness of life and love. Might as well enjoy it while you are still alive – a glowing song to start the album which can barely hide its exuberance.

‘Shifting Heavy Circles’ is a track that inherently sounds like a Cummings song. Humour and weariness combined with a thumping bass and an eighties guitar solo. The artist pondering the life of the artist with Cummings singing “I work all day/and feel like shit”.  The life of the musician is not always easy.

‘Don’t Break Up With Me’ is delivered with a quirky, almost avant-garde style – bouncing with energy, meshed with keyboard motifs and reverse sounds – reminiscent of David Byrne but so much more. That “bouncy” feel permeates the album with amazing sounding “real” drums – where it encapsulates you with joy. ‘One Hand Reaches For Another’ is a song that has a Phil Spector production vibe – with Cummings providing a little tribute to that special someone that has helped him when he was “under attack“. Music bathed in sunshine mixed with Cummings’ distinctive vocal. A song almost religious and basking with euphoria.

We have already talked about ‘The Wind Blew Hard’ in a previous review – but it is such an evocative piece of work. A short song, strong on atmospherics and beauty. You almost feel as if you are floating and drifting and making “that escape” with Cummings as your trusty pilot. A little torch song and one of his best. A song that Stevie Nicks would have wished she had written.

When I first heard the first bluesy chords of ‘Then Comes Love’, I was almost waiting to hear the low voice of Renée Geyer. A song that serves as a further reminder of Cummings strength as a songwriter. Deceptively simple – a drunken reverie of a song with a seductive bass, as Cummings sings, “sick of waiting for you/sick of everything you do” – however, there is always love to make it all worthwhile, even when you are feeling like a curmudgeon.

The album ends with the country sounding ‘The World Has No Size Now’ – bluesy guitar, harmonica and that “bouncy” drum sound that makes the album so accessible. A great ending to an album that really makes you feel so uplifted.

Prisoner of Love is an album that is so likeable on its first listen, but this doesn’t take away from the quirky nature of Cummings and his brilliant songs. A strong collection of songs that further exemplifies Cummings as one of our top troubadours – for an album called Prisoner of Love, he actually sounds unbridled and content – and the resultant is euphoric.

Enjoy this album and celebrate one of our most idiosyncratic and uncompromising artists.

Prisoner of Love is out now (Bloodlines).

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