Oli Rockberger's Old Habits starts out in gently ringing chords and harmonics that immediately start calling to mind David Wilcox but soon shift into laid-back John Martyn before picking up speed and a lightly jazzy mode that Kenny Rankin and John Sebastian would start snapping their fingers to Old Habits Die Hard, though, assumes a strongly Paul Simon ambiance mixed with a bit of Terrell and some Terence Trent D'arby by way of G.E. Smith's Saturday Night Live vibe. Rockberger's keyboards on the cut, however, strikingly remind me of Lee Michaels' high days as the composition reaches its peak and dies out. Then the fuzzily funky Interlude pops up, and we're back inside a warm foggy nightscape that swirls and eddies around the listener, as much confection as upbeat moody rumination.
Rockberger's voice has that whispery quality which made Colin Blunstone's work so distinctive (and still does—the recent Zombies revival has been nothing short of marvelous), and his arrangements are frequently composed of Sade, Steely Dan, Iain Matthews, Christopher Cross, and the aforementioned Simon with his own mellifluously slanted wont, all underwriting a texture that's narcotic, mystical, and pastoral…then suddenly urgent, earthy, as contrastive emotions awaken, when the pulse rises. His talents have been recognized and utilized by Randy Brecker, Levon Helm, Jackie DeShannon, and others, and when you hear Never Grow Old, my favorite cut, you'll know why. It perfectly centers the album, and everything kinda leads up and then falls away from it, the reprise of Never Grow Old echoing the core, with My Home a pianistic instrumental coda.
Oli's arranging skills are Romantically gorgeous, cut by a tautly defined edge in lyrics and vocal delivery that transfuse William Blake-ian heavenly fields into cityscapes and byways. Lately, Leigh Gregory and his Memory's Mystic Band have been doing much the same thing to much the same effect, and it's a mode that never fails to enthrall. Shawn Philips tried it in Forevermore long ago, and that LP stood as his high-water mark. The trait brings a quite progressive element to a folk / pop / soulful mode (Two Feet is almost an extract from Stevie Wonder's high period, with a bit of Marvin Gaye thrown in), allowing the CD to come to rest in a genre that has no name yet…and probably never will…and that's just fine by me, so long as cats like Oli Rockberger keep it going.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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