Colorama – Chaos Wonderland
There are a select group of musicians who gradually, often unnoticed, manage to achieve the respect of their peers and as a result become the ‘go to’ musicians for live work and sessions. One such example is Carwyn Ellis who has worked with a string of notable artists including Edwyn Collins, Roddy Frame and more recently as a member of the Pretenders. Most would be content to enjoy the ride as an end in itself but Ellis continues to pursue his own music and in 2019 released ‘Joia!’ one of the finest albums of the year with his band Rio 18. As a result of all this activity ‘Chaos Wonderland’ has been resting in the pending tray for a couple of years and it’s a welcome addition to the growing Ellis/Colorama discography. It’s an outstanding and varied album which traverses moods and genres with ease and working alongside Shawn Lee the musicianship matches the excellence of the song writing.
Although the album has variety one of the recurring themes is an homage to the music that Ellis loves. “Reconciliation” is perhaps the finest example on the album. Songs that try and re-create the past can often fall into pastiche but this sounds like an authentic slice of Motown gold with its falsetto Al Green vocal and electric sitar sound. The song itself oozes late night city Detroit circa 1971 and Holland-Dozier-Holland would have been more than proud to have written this track. Carwyn Ellis has written some wonderful songs in his time and ‘Conchita’ is one of his finest; a beautifully arranged and beautifully restrained ballad. The 1960s are a recurring influence and ‘Me & She’ has that slightly off kilter charm that Harry Nilsson achieved at his very best and ‘Dusty Road’ has a beat that propels and a melody that was born for roof down cars with stereos at full throttle.
‘Chaos Wonderland’ is yet another consummate album made by an artist who is enjoying a creative run and operating at the peak of his powers.