A New Day at Midnight
First Appeared at The Music Box, February 2003, Volume 10, #2
Written by John Metzger
After three albums with disappointing sales, David Gray finally managed to strike gold with 1999ís White Ladder. The sudden burst of attention he received undoubtedly was helped along when Dave Matthews opted to make the disc the first to be released on his new label, but Grayís staying power was entirely of his own making. In a refreshing twist, the masterfully crafted hit single Babylon became the albumís driving force. Itís the type of song for which many a songwriter would sell his soul to pen, and it helped propel White Ladder to multi-platinum success ó even if the rest of the album was mediocre at best.
Three years later, Gray has returned with his follow-up A New Day at Midnight. Can lightning strike twice for the British songwriter? Yes and no. On the downside, there isnít a song on the disc thatís quite the gem that Babylon was. Then again, thatís not all that surprising given that Babylon was a stroke of genius, offering a perfect blend of lyric, melody, and stylistic interpretation. On the other hand, A New Day at Midnight is a downright terrific outing, full of absolutely gorgeous songs as well as intelligent and sorrowful, but ultimately optimistic, lyrics.
The techno-folk sound that Gray employed to the point of tedium on White Ladder does remain on A New Day at Midnight. But rather than making it the sole focus of each and every track, Gray uses it merely as the foundation upon which to build his works of wondrous beauty. If comparisons must be made, Gray borrows a bit from the Beatlesí songbook to pull off an album that ranks among the finest outings from Elton John.
Grayís voice is admittedly thin, and within White Ladderís sparse arrangements, it often failed to carry the load. Not so on A New Day at Midnight as he puts it to superb use. Indeed, itís his vocals that make the album so strong as his voice ripples through the songs with raw emotion, often gliding just above their heady arrangements. Many artists who are granted larger recording budgets fritter away the cash on lavishly extravagant and largely unnecessary instrumentation that often sounds out of place and detracts far more than it adds. Again, Gray beats this trend, using the money wisely to augment and expand upon his signature style. Every note seems perfectly placed as various keyboards, guitars, percussion loops, and yes, even the requisite bouts of orchestra and brass, chime in at just the right places. The result is a series of captivating and mesmerizing tunes that sound fresh and vibrant. For certain, A New Day at Midnight might just be the biggest surprise of 2002, even if itís because it proves without a doubt that David Gray is far, far more than just a one-hit wonder.
A New Day at Midnight is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box