Gregory Darling

Gregory Darling is back in The Jim Brickman Show “Artist Spotlight” with his brand new single “Rain”

Who made such an impression on George Michael that he offered him a record contract on the spot? And who jammed on stage with Prince for the best part of an hour after His Diminutive Godliness – who’d first encountered our mysterious accomplice at the Whisky A-­Go-­Go and had pursued him ever since -­ insisted on helping out on an improv live session in their home town of Los Angeles? And who did Bono see live in Nice, France and then track down at a dinner table so he could tell him he was “The Man With Many Voices”? And is it true that the very same artist (we are struggling to pigeonhole)  counts  Bryan  Adams  amongst  his  Top  Five  Famous  Fans  and  that  that  lauded gravel-­voiced troubadour insisted he open up for him on a major section of his European  tour?  And  who  sold  100,000  copies  of  his  debut  album  (in  an  earlier  lead-­singer-­in-­band incarnation) in his first week of release? And finally though we’ve barely scratched the surface, who counts Julian Lennon as a close friend – “I’m a big fan and I love your hair” was Julian’s opening gambit! – and played piano (and shared co-­writing duties) on Lennon’s critically acclaimed Photograph Smile, as well as providing ivory-­tinkling duties and backing vocals on a subsequent world tour? Well, the answer to our conundrum – and The Artist We’ve All Been Waiting For – is Gregory Darling and he’s just conjured up one of the best albums of this or any other year. That record is called Madly and it’s set to mark Darling out as a standard amongst his generation.
Recorded in Rome and produced by Bob Rose, Madly is astonishing in its depth and  maturity  and  so  instantly  memorable  it  suggests  Darling  has  wired  himself  into  some kind of illegal song-­writing machine. It is also a pure blast of classic, euphoric popular  music  that  has  an  instant,  classic  feel,  like  something  you’d  had  knocking  around the house for years. Kicking off with the sanguine grandeur of lead single My Sleeping  Heart  (about  falling  asleep  at  the  wheel  of  a  too-­cozy  relationship),  Madly  easily morphs into the Bowie-­esque Send Me A Message – the song was inspired by the  death  of  his  grandfather  and  a  conversation  Darling  had  with  his  son  about  the  afterlife although the line “send me a message from the stars” surely acknowledges the deaths of Bowie and Prince as much as anyone else – before reveling in the soon-­to-­be classic balladry of When Rain Washed Away My Love. Sounding not unlike Elton John fronting a particularly reflective Aerosmith, when Darling belts out “If I made myself a better man/Maybe one day I’ll understand” he has never sounded in finer fettle. Having said that, the soulful and Elbow/ELO-­influenced So Much To Feel is Darling’s best vocal yet, no doubt the result of Darling having recently worked with acclaimed multi-­million selling UK tenor Russell Watson and being reminded “you have to work three hours a day on warm ups for your voice.”
Title track Madly is Darling at his most rock ‘n’ roll, all Pistols/ Clash guitar breaks courtesy of ax-­wielder Dani Robinson;; you get the idea he may have messed up on a relationship as he screams “it’s a lonely old Saturday night but I’ve got red wine!” After this  blast  of  euphoria,  My  Name  Is  Jack  –  a  song  influenced  by  the  death  of  a  fan  Darling had been receiving letters from – is respite enough before Through The Eyes Of A Child – inspired by Darling’s one year old son spotting a crescent moon in the back garden at 4pm – reminds us what a tremendously gifted singer/songwriter we have in our midst. This is borne out on Element Of Surprise – Bob Rose’s Morricone-­influenced strings are a revelation – where Darling embraces the destiny of history (“The kings of yesterday  found  out  the  hard  way”)  and  Love  Cried  highlighting,  no  doubt,  the  dry  humor of Darling’s ex-­girlfriend who once pointed out that she would love him “till the wine dried up!” Finally, appropriately, the album ends with Unconditionally, a beautifully heartfelt,  Xmas  ballad  with  a  Greg  Lake  meets  Bing  and  Frank  take  on  the  festive  period. But how do you pen an Xmas song in June? Simple, says Darling, “You get a bottle of rum and some dancing elves and you’re in business.”
Of  course,  we’ve  been  here  before  and  it  shouldn’t  be  a  shock  to  learn  that  Darling has something of an interesting back-­story. Famed for appearing in a choir conducted as a child by Ennio Morricone (Exorcist 2) – whilst studying at the Mitchell School (where his father had also been a student) -­ Darling initially signed to Polygram as  Bowie/Queen-­influenced  outfit  Darling  Cruel.  At  the  time  Darling  was  managed  by  Guns ‘n’ Roses/Poison lynchpin Vicky Hamilton (although it was legendary producer Bob  Rose  that  actually  secured  the  deal)  and  as  their  debut  album,  Passion  Crimes,  spawned two videos that became Polygram’s most successful MTV videos of the year (according to label boss Dick Asher it was also “the best album I have heard since I signed  Pink  Floyd”)  you  could  be  forgiven  for  thinking  that  Darling’s  future  looked  as  bright as the decade it was no doubt heralding. Typically, with a distinct lack of serendipity, just as Darling Cruel completed the follow-­up -­ a record called ‘Movies For The Mind’ produced by Tony Visconti in New York -­ Polygram discovered rap, Asher got fired and all bets were off.
In any event, Bob Rose rediscovered Darling (through some kind of LA osmosis) and frog-­marched him into recording several demos at Rockfield Studios in Wales (with Silverhead/Robert Plant guitarist Robby Blunt). Some time later, Darling found himself living in France and co-­writing five songs (including the title track) and playing piano on Julian  Lennon’s  critically  acclaimed  album  Photograph  Smile.  He  subsequently  embarked on a world tour with Lennon between 1998 and 2000 where he played piano and provided backing vocals.
In 2005, Darling signed a worldwide publishing and recording deal with Toronto-­based FOD Records – set up and run by Dean Manjuris and Bob Rose – releasing his debut album Shell the following year. The record, produced by Bob Rose and featuring ex  Blondie-­bassist  Nigel  Harrison,  the  Prague  Jazz  Orchestra,  the  Czech  Symphony  (conducted and arranged by Rose) and The London Gospel Choir, included the song New Dream, a duet with Lennon. The album received critical acclaim throughout Europe – the record wasn’t released in the US – catapulted Darling into the Top Ten in Italy and Germany and saw him touring with Bryan Adams. Two years later, Darling released Stew Americano featuring Portishead’s Clive Deamer and Alan Parson’s Project bassist Joe Puerta, the record receiving superb reviews: the Sunday Times called it “a wonderful album full of classic 1970s-­style piano pop that should delight anyone who loves peak period Elton John or Joe Jackson” whilst the Mail On Sunday suggested it had “a romantic weariness that recalls something of Elton John in his prime.”

In 2012, Darling found a new lease of life and an optimism that ensured his third album,  Coloured  Life,  sounded  young  and  full  of  beans.  Produced  by  Bob  Rose  and  recorded and mixed in Brussels and Rome, the album could have been Adele or Amy Winehouse as re-­ imagined by Elvis Costello and it was this album together with Shell and Stew Americano that made up Darling’s compilation, Songs From Under The Hat released  in  2016.  The  anthology,  although  a  perfect  way  to  get  acquainted  with  this  uniquely gifted artist, is of course, only a semi-­colon in the life of our intrepid hero and it’s a pleasure to report that Madly – a record featuring Manny Elias (Tears For Fears) on drums, Blondie’s Nigel Harrison on bass, the aforementioned Dani Robinson (Billy Cox  Band  of  Gypsies  Experience)  on  guitar  and  the  Orchestra  di  Santa  Cecilia  Orchestra (Orchestra of the Vatican) -­ will be his first official American solo release and that it’s such a blast.
Darling has been quoted as saying “at school, I played in a lot of bands, a black funk  act,  even  at  the  Southern  Baptist  Church  in  Tujunga  every  Sunday,  until  they  kicked me out for falling asleep under a piano,” but he also attended music school in LA in order to learn to write songs properly. Of course that Church’s loss is our mutual gain and it is this combination of eccentricity and expertise that makes his recordings such a revelation.  Naturally,  Madly  proves  to  be  just  as  revelatory  –  and  what  the  world  is  waiting for.