Growing old gracefully is not a concept embraced by all pop stars still plying their trade as the inevitable slide towards middle age sets in. Their gaudy attempts to recapture the glory days can often be painfully embarrassing to watch.
Eighties teen idol Roddy Frame has long recognised that the adulation he once enjoyed as a bona fide pop star with his band Aztec Camera is a thing of the past but there is still music to be made, songs to be sung. He served his song-writing apprenticeship as part of the embryonic Postcard Records scene; the legendary Scottish label is fondly remembered as a breeding ground for acts with a commitment to the ideal of intelligent, classy pop music.
In 1983, Aztec Camera released their classic debut album High Land, Hard Rain; Frame was just nineteen years old and found himself a fully fledged pop star with the hit single 'Oblivious' securing his place as an eighties icon. Further success followed - hit singles like 'Somewhere In My Heart' demonstrated Frame's flair for penning catchy, memorable tunes, a talent that continues to shine undimmed on this his fourth solo album, The Seven Dials.
This is a collection of poignantly beautiful, timeless pop songs infused with a wisdom and maturity that befits Frame's status as a musician and songwriter with over thirty years on the clock. It's a record gilded with wistful observations on the passage of time, and Frame's finely honed gift for crafting near perfect melodies.
Songs like the brisk 'Forty Days of Rain' with its Dylan-esque harmonica intro and 'Fly Into the Sun are lively up-tempo numbers that are instantly memorable. On the pensive and evocative 'English Garden' Frame sings: 'Now in every room a different sorrow hangs|And the past is like another place, it's a foreign land', a line that perfectly encapsulates a central theme on the album. There is a restless longing at work here, a desire to escape the ghosts of our past. And it's to the past we return with 'On The Waves', a song that meticulously recaptures the sound of Frame's Aztec Camera days - one listen and the years tumble away. It's one of many moments of bittersweet beauty on an album that serves as a timely reminder that pop music is not the preserve of the young, that there is still a place for music crafted with love and sincerity.
The Seven Dials is a rare and precious thing, an album fashioned from many years of experience that relies purely on the strength of the song-writing. There are no cheap tricks or gimmicks, just heartfelt, dignified songs from a songwriter at the very top of his game. An album to cherish.
Review by Paul Page | FOUR STARS