Song poems with a continental bent which ultimately fail to spring to life.
While the sainted saviour of dull Sunday mornings, Cerys Matthews, has said that Gibraltar-born troubadour Gabriel Moreno is “an offshoot of Leonard Cohen and Neil Diamond,” I fear that her usually unerring antennae has let her down on this occasion as Moreno is nowhere as engaging or moving as Cohen and doesn’t have the popular flair of Diamond. Listening to this ten-set song of bedsit ballads, laced with a faded sense of continental glamour, in the main due to Moreno’s accent, the precedent that came to mind was Peter Sarstedt.
Sarstedt, you might remember was a one hit wonder who in 1969 scored big with ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’. That was an excellent song of its time, a folk ballad with a sophisticated whiff of Parisian boulevards, so chic back then and these days a nostalgic arrow to the heart when it’s played at weddings, giving the older folk a chance to relive their youth on the dance floor. If this describes you then you might enjoy this album.
Apparently Moreno is a well-established poet with 12 books under his belt but here he seems to have decided that just setting some of his poetry to music makes for an engaging listen. The music for the most part is comprised of delicate guitar, piano and woodwind settings, the kind of backing Cohen was using in his doldrums such as on the album ‘Dear Heather’. It’s all very polite and almost supper club background music. That’s all well and good if the words stand out so what then to make of Moreno as a troubadour who apparently “favours protest songs and acute social and psychological commentary of our troublesome times.” Well, there are a couple of topical songs which refer to the war in Ukraine. ‘Wound In the Night’, aside from a clumsy attempt to reference Cohen’s well-known lyric “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” has a jarring upbeat delivery with Moreno singing “The trees, the trees are breathing despair ‘coz some fools drilled holes in the air. And it’s raining in Kyev” On ‘Where The Wild Wind Blows’, he waxes quite poetical with this: “Tell me, did they start another war, just because their testicles were far too overgrown? I am sick of their show, can you show me your porticle where you silence the void with your spicey corazon.” It’s delivered in a hushed and reverential manner but this reviewer struggles to make any sense of this.
In essence, Moreno seems to strive for a romantic version of a poet setting the world to rights while lying in a gutter staring at the stars but lacking the passion or desperation one might expect. He sings of the impressionist painter Suzanne Valadon, opening with these words, “I speak to the ghost of Suzanne Valadon to get help for this song coz my pipelines are blocked with the ruins of my time.” Elsewhere he sings of the “caverns of your mind” and also returns to Cohen’s crack analogy on ‘Blurred Horizons’. Returning to Sarstedt, a listen to the opening song here, ‘Growing Old’, strikes one as a song that could have been sung by him as an elderly boulevardier. Ultimately, ‘Wound In The Night‘ strikes one as an attempt to sound sophisticated and concerned but it’s let down by its failure to portray any true passion.