Review Summary: Want to Want To is a totally one-man project, being written, performed, produced, engineered, and recorded by Adrian Heath in his home studio. Heath has handled the project with precision. The album is well-balanced, allowing the instrumentation to underscore the feel and meaning of his lyrics and his voice, which carries the work well.
English-born, newly transplanted Australian singer/songwriter Adrian Heath has launched a fine solo album, Want to Want To. The nine-song album is totally self-produced. All songs are written, engineered, and produced by Heath in his home studio. He also plays all of the instruments, except drums and percussion for which Jon Howell does most of the duties. There are a guest musicians and backup singers. Through it all is Heath's pure rock/pop vocals and his lyrics. It is an ambitious undertaking, but Heath has handled the project with precision. This is no overproduced or under-produced CD. It is well-balanced, allowing the instrumentation just to underscore the feel and meaning of his lyrics and his voice, which carries the work well.
The initial track, “Old Guitar,” sets the mood for the rest of the album. The bouncy but laid-back feel of this love song is enhanced by Kyrie Miskin's trombone, which adds more whimsy. This is characteristic of Heath's willingness to craft instrumentation on a track that enhances a song, rather than gets in the songwriter's way. That isn't necessarily a quality most songwriters have who produce their own work. Too often the lyrics are muddied by every bell and whistle in their musical toy box.
That kind of editing is most notable in the thoughtful “Sail On” that follows. It has crisp acoustic guitar fingerwork, well-placed drum beats used sparingly, a droning harmonica, and Heath's own voice overdubbed as backup.
Heath works his magic again on “Live Life,” a song that encourages living in the moment, making the most of our time here. It is a pensive tune that is brightened by the backup vocals of Heath's 9-year-old daughter, India, and eventually turns into an anthem of hope. Its placement, as is “Old Guitar” as the first cut is well thought out. Track 3 is usually the place most producers put their title cut (here Heath moves it to the fourth slot.) and this serves this song well, revealing that Heath is less about ego and more about what he is trying to achieve with this album.
The title cut, “Want to Want to (David Helfgott's Smile)” boasts a theremin in the background. (That's an instrument I haven't heard since my son's band Zen Mothers recorded and toured with one—or I watched an on sci-fi B movie.) It isn't overwhelming, just a touch of this otherworldly sound, that doesn't detract from Heath's instrumentation and his lyrical allusion's to pianist David Helfgott and the challenges of truth in this upbeat tune.
“Whirlpool,” which may be the most atmospheric of the lot, is a jazz-based track with Pete Timmerman's brush and stick work on drums, Dave Blennerhassett's moody bass, and Richard Jansson's touch of flute that complement Heath's guitars, his dual vocals, and his trumpet.
“Sun Don't Shine,” though similarly thoughtful, boasts some lovely guitar fingerwork that, once again, just supports the lyrics and makes the track sparkle.
Then Heath turns to the mystically in “Marian,” a song about an encounter with a South Asian seer in Thailand. His treatment of overdubbed vocals and other vocal enhancements have created a sound drama on this track that allows the listener to grasp who says what—plus it adds another texture to the piece. This song is an echo back to Heath's years of traveling the world, even playing at the Dali Lama's Summer Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
But “Half Light” is more of a standard singer/songwriter arrangement, but with Health's special touch. Jon Howell's drums lay the foundation for this song as Heath layers tastes of Martin Hailey's electric guitar and Kyrie Miskin's trombone with his own harmonica work and vocals. He also adds the lovely voice of Gemma Deacon, blending well with his own.
Want to Want To concludes with “Like a Storm” that is a naked cut with just Heath's voice and guitar, allowing his simple words to carry a deeper spiritual message. There is the hint of something like a synthesizer or a violin underneath the track in places that just adds fullness. Neither instrument is listed on the liner notes, but since Heath began on piano as a child, it wouldn't surprise me to find he'd added synth to the mix.
Want to Want To is an exceptionally fine debut solo CD for Adrian Heath. The instrumentation and production is superb, but what makes this album so special is Heath's lyrical voice and his songs. The lyrics are solidly written, but allow enough poetry to seep in to make them ripe with deeper meanings. I look forward to much more from Adrian Heath.
Reviewed by Janie Franz