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Chris Connely And The Bells, "Blonde Exodus"

Scottish born, Chicago based singer/songwriter Chris Connelly is often compared to David Bowie, Scott Walker and the like but he has truly come into his own over the past decade. "Blonde Exodus" is the 5th album of his solo career, the second to be credited with his new band The Bells. And unlike the previous album "The Ultimate Seaside Companion", here The Bells live band (Mark Henning - guitars, mandolin, backing vocals, timpani; Henry Polk - bass guitar; Kim Ambriz - drums, percussion; and others) serve as the studio band too providing a solid live band sound throughout. Dramatic, poetic pop song craft is Connelly's forte as he takes great care in marrying his expressive lyrics, mostly relationship adventures, to lush and melodic arrangements of acoustic and electric guitars, piano, harmonica, keyboards, female backing vocals and strings. "Generique" opens the curtains of this play with a gorgeous, swirling theme and French text reading. Most of the songs to follow are mid tempo pop rock in the 3 to 5 minute range, save for the title track which comes in two near 8 minute mini epics, the former detailing the doomed journey of a model from 'Chicago to Milano'. "Diamonds Eat Diamonds", dedicated to fellow Scot singer Billy Mackenzie of the Associates, begs 'if I could will you sweet angel, back to the front, I would force my doors open, kiss you like diamonds eat diamonds'. "Blue Hooray!" is a bitter condemnation of a former lover with the repeated line 'you were always hoping that I'd immortalize you in a song'. "Magnificent Wing" and "The Long Weekend" are fantastic bits of travelogue, the former with rolling tides of timpani. "Julie Delpy" is by far the catchiest and up beat tune, infectiously so with gorgeous piano work and a declaration: 'and I want you, most sincerely, to acknowledge, right of place, when all your life appears to be a waste'. The "Closing Titles" cleverly deliver a spoken cast of those responsible, bringing the album to a curtain call close. Brilliant! Chris Connelly is simply one of the finest living songwriters today as far as I'm concerned, a woefully unsung artistic treasure, and "Blonde Exodus" is once again sure proof of that .