Album Review: Phil Thornalley – Now That I Have Your Attention (2022)

Music biz stalwart’s second solo album, his first since 1988, shines a little love with a bit of Jeff Lynne-inspired magic.

Phil Thornalley is somebody you probably haven’t heard of, but really should have. He’s been around the music business for years; co-writing Natalie Imbruglia’s huge 1997 smash hit Torn, as well as two number one singles for Pixie Lott, Mama Do and Boys And Girls. Too contemporary for you? Well how about the fact that he produced and played the bass on The Cure’s The Love Cats in 1983, has written songs for Bryan Adams (as well as played as part of his band for several years) and engineered/mixed songs and albums by artists such as Duran Duran, Sting, Thompson Twins and Prefab Sprout. In recent years, Phil has released albums under the moniker of Astral Drive for the Lojinx label, but now releases his second solo album (his first was in 1988), Now That I Have Your Attention, on which Phil utilises and replicates the production style and trickery of the ELO maestro, Jeff Lynne.

It isn’t so much that this album sounds like the Electric Light Orchestra, it often shares more characteristics with the albums Lynne produced for/with Tom Petty and George Harrison, with a soupçon of Traveling Wilburys in there for good measure. There is a sharp attention to detail as you’d expect from such a veteran of the music business, such as the tight knit harmonies coupled with the very dry vocals, the jangling acoustic guitars, sweeping strings and the high-in-the-mix drums, but Thornalley never lets it drift into pastiche or parody; this is clearly an album made with a lot of love and respect, full of songs that – had they been released by the people they’re meant to sound like – would have most likely been firm fan favourites.

The songs themselves are tremendously enjoyable; they share the joie de vivre of Lynne’s late 80s/early 90s output when he was, for a short while, one of the most in-demand producers on the planet. It’s such a blast to listen to and, on tracks like Hell Bent On Compromise, you feel like you’re listening to a great unreleased Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers single, alongside Big Plans which has the characteristic of an album track from The Last DJ, whereas Fast Car is the huge ELO pop single that many felt was missing from Jeff Lynne’s slightly sedate recent albums. Dylan gets a look-in too, as High On Your Supply is a dead-ringer for an unused Lucky-led Wilbury’s cut from Volume Three. If you want a blast of classic late seventies ELO, One Night In America has the all the hallmarks of Jeff’s writing at the time and it’s easily the equal of anything ELO Part Two attempted to replicate. Album closer To Die For actually reminds me of the very recent tracks Jeff produced for Bryan Adams on his 2015 album Get Up, although with perhaps a little more added ELO pizazz.

Now That I Have Your Attention is, simply put, a brilliant and thoroughly pleasurable listening experience. It’s skilfully executed without being too obviously clever, it gives the flavour some of Jeff Lynne’s best work without forgetting to actually write excellent songs in their own right. It is, in my opinion, essential listening for fans of Lynne, Harrison, Petty and The Wilburys and despite its extremely heavy influences is, on its own merits, one of the very finest albums I’ve heard this year. The CD version has three bonus tracks – all well worth hearing – and as good as anything on the main album. I can’t recommend this highly enough and it’s put a big smile on my face all the way through my second and third listening sessions. I can’t get it out of my head…

Now That I Have Your Attention is available now on Lojinx as a CD or digital download, as well as on most streaming sites.

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