29 Jan 2023

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Don McGlashan - Album Review: Bright November Morning

24 Feb 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Don McGlashan is gliding into iconic, almost patriarchal status in New Zealand’s musical heritage. His narrative is ours, his perspective the everyday, the mundane, the tragic and the joyful; snapshots of Kiwi normal, and occasionally not so.

His fourth solo album is released this Friday, March 25th, and it's immediately familiar and easy. We’ve heard these songs before, back in November 2020, when he performed with his band, The Others, at the Hollywood in Avondale. We weren’t allowed to write, the songs were too new, or Don was too modest and cautious, exhibiting the fears and nerves of the opening song, which is the opening song of the album, when the Lights Come On.

He needn’t have worried, the concert was great, the musicianship superb, the songs sublime, but then again, there’s the humanity of humility of the Don. Even Dons get the jitters.

Bright November Morning is the album, and the reference is to a dark place in New Zealand history when John Bryce oversaw the slaughter at Parihaka, and Don rails at the travesty of continuing to honour the events of 17th century England, with the annual Guy Fawkes Day, no longer a bonfire but an ignorant conflation of terrorism and righteous religious unrest, when we have our own travesty to remember, on Parihaka day. The mood of the music is sombre and dark, and Shayne P Carter shimmers threateningly in the wings.

Turns out this is the only angry song on the album, because anger is not a natural Don McGlashan state. He’s more often in nostalgic frame, or philosophical, or sad. Or historical, as the story of Shackleton unfolds. I’ve just finished Ranulf Fiennes biography of Shackleton, a deeply flawed man with a flair for embellishment but undeniably a great leader of men through adversity. So I’m freshly familiar with the impossible traverse of South Georgia and the arrival, after 18 months lost, of zombies back from the dead. There was no bible in my book, but there was a presence, someone walking beside him. And now a beautiful tribute in song.

Childhood fears after an afternoon splashing in the surf; did we get lucky? Do we want to Go Back In?

Or childhood fondly remembered on the beach, smell of Sunscreen, mixed with ice cream. Could be Don with kids, could be Don himself, the tiny Michelin man.

A song written with Front Lawns colleague Harry Sinclair, one from the vault maybe? Life as a series of whats and nows, and they all converge right now, yes right now, Now’s the Place. Shayne P Carter shimmering still, dying to cut loose as he did at the Hollywood.

And there are more gems, All The Goodbyes In The World, written with Luke Buda, and then the saddest song of all about a life in decline, for whatever reason, and the curtains come down to clean the flooded floor but it’s alright, even though the neighbours can see in, there’ll be so much more light with Nothing On The Windows.

A ballad to someone lost, Song For Sue, and finally a song of get up again strength, indefatigable optimism in the face of adversity, because in the morning we Start Again.

Bright November Morning is a stunning paean to everyday life, beautifully arranged, and beautifully played by The Others, with Shayne P Carter on guitar, James Duncan on bass and keys, Chris O’Connor on drums, and the Don himself on guitars, tenor horn and keys. Backing vocal cameos from Emily Fairlight, Hollie Smith and The Beths, and finally Anita Clark on violin on the Song for Sue.

This could be Don McGlashan’s finest hour and finest work.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Don McGlashan

Don McGlashan is one of New Zealand’s best known and highly regarded songwriters.

Don was a member of Philip Dadson’s From Scratch music/performance art group from 1979-86. The group performed worldwide and Don helped record three albums while a member.

In 1980, with guitarist Mark Bell and bassist Tim Mahon, he formed Auckland band Blam Blam Blam. His song Don't Fight It, Marsha, It’s Bigger Than Both of Us was named 'Song of the Year' in the 1982 New Zealand Recording Industry Awards.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Don McGlashan


Bright November Morning
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Lucky Stars
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Marvellous Year
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Warm Hand
Year: 2006
Type: Album
An Angel At My Table OST
Year: 1991
Type: Album

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