Whilst Gregory Douglass works on his new studio album, the most welcome Retro Active Vol 4 fills the void. Previously it’s been reinventions of old songs, live covers or hidden b-sides that we’d not had mass exposure to as fans. This volume see’s previous songs given the acoustic guitar or piano and cello treatment and quite simply it works a treat.
“The Story” a cover from Brandi Carlie, showcases the vocal talents of Gregory as he effortlessly flies from one octave to another in this initially simple guitar and cello track which is completely transformed by how the vocals take the melody into another level. “Hang Around” is one of the better known tracks and so to make it into a ballad is quite daring but it works. Duelling his own voice and having layers of cello transform the track into something completely new. The cello is thick and sumptuous and the Douglass doesn’t over do it letting the track simply be. “Sail the Sea” turns things towards a funky jazzier feel with Lisa Piccarillo on backing vocals working her magic too. It’s a simple arrangement but again, the simplicity works. “Complain” is a piano and vocal track that builds and builds into its dramatic finale. It’s a traditional 70’s Elton style track that has a strong melody and room for vocal flexing. “Wild” is possibly the biggest arrangement as the initially heavily electronic track is now a guitar and cello mid tempo track. It have a different vibe to it this way – less euphoric and more like you are sinking back into your chair fulfilled. The EP closes with Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and it’s a beautiful rendition – really paired down and again – as is the mantra with this EP – simple.
This EP more than tides us over until the new album is out. It serves as a good cross-section of where Gregory is at right now and I think gives a clue as to how the new album will turn out.