Raphael Doyle, Never Closer. Album Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

Time is nothing more than illusion, something purposely created by humanity to make sure we find ways of being productive and marking the hours between dawn and dusk so that the darkness of night has something a little more concrete to hang onto, to remind us to get something down on paper that is tangible and worth leaving for the next generation.

Sometimes we are Never Closer to seeing the illusion of Time than when we collaborate with someone on a project for the first time in a long while, when the intervening years prove that the spark, the beauty of ideas, was like an explosion in the stars and the dust of the cosmos placed its magic for all to hear.

Raphael Doyle’s Never Closer is one such moment in the stars as Time is turned back to meet itself full on and with great swathes of admiration in its applause as the man of words from Café Society is reunited with his old friend Tom Robinson in what is likely to be seen as an early contender for being placed in the album of the year.

With support from Lisa Knapp, producer Gerry Driver, Barry Grint and Louis Doyle, Never Closer is poetic charm, a sense of completion in a time which perhaps has not been kind of late to the musician. The music is not just poetic, it is poetry, from the opening track in which for several glorious minutes Raphael Doyle recounts days that are now like cosmic dust, eaten by Time but still fresh in the memory, all the moments of wonder and regret in his life are brought to bear in the scintillating I Come From Ireland. In this track alone stands testament to the overall beauty of the album, the spoken word refrain, the damage, the absolute pain in the delicate but strong willed voice, the recounting perhaps of sins and being sinned against; this is a track of epic proportions and it to be honoured such.

With songs such as The Shape I’m In, The Touch of Our Hands, Frankie, which features Tom Robinson, and Bob Dylan’s Dream, Raphael Doyle is at a point where the music, where his soul, is to be held and allowed to express itself in a place that might not have been foreseen just a short while ago.

A terrific album, one of absolutes and splendour, Time has no hold on Never Closer, Time is banished to wait out its days.

Raphael Doyle’s Never Closer is released on January 27th.

Ian D. Hall