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Vertical Wealth

by William Gray

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Open Season 03:54
The Fatalist 12:57


This album was one of Vibrations Magazine's top 20 albums of 2011 with individual tracks again being aired on BBC radio:

'The singer-songwriter market is crowded. You need something that people can get hold of. I can imagine a mythical A&R man barking this rhetoric. Then I imagine William Gray cocking his head to one side and going back to his room to knock out another outstanding album, whilst wondering what the strange stressed-looking man was talking about. Gray has always been a master of evocative imagery, and his approach to subject matters big and small sounds consistently fresh and original, even if they are as old as the hills. But this is no hairdryer record of polemic and wrath. This is the arm around the shoulder from an old friend who doesn't say much, but when they do it's always worth listening to. And so it is.'

Rob Paul Chapman - Vibrations Magazine

'Sparkling with wit and personality, ‘Vertical Wealth’ is a continuation of the form which Gray showed on his first album.'

Jonathan Leonard - Leonard's Lair

'You’d be forgiven for thinking that BBC Radio - 1 year-in, year-out - discover and promote the best new musical talent via its ‘Sounds Of The Coming Year’ series of awards. You’d be very wrong though because the ridiculously named ‘tastemakers’ it turns to, both within and without of the BBC, are likely to only receive artist information and music from record companies who have the financial clout and marketing machine that many new/aspiring acts just cannot afford. In addition, does anybody really know what great music is going to emerge in the year ahead?

William Gray is a singer/songwriter of immense talent who sends out album samplers in the hope that reviewers like me will take notice and write something, even if it’s not complimentary. Vertical Wealth is the second album I’ve received from him. The first I reviewed pretty quickly, however, this new album I openly admit has taken a few months to get round to. I loved his first album and after several listens have decided that this one is even better.

Opener ‘First Dog In Space’ is a charming and hugely melodic folk/pop song which characterises the artist’s gentle, understated style. Lyrics matter to Gray and in this instance they are intelligent and moving. ‘All The Best Ones Do’ is marginally more upbeat and more populated by instruments. Melodically it doesn’t quite meet the standard set by the album’s opener but it’s tangible and pretty good. The song also reveals the quirky side to this artist’s makeup but it is well judged and never ‘over-the-top’.

‘Waves On The Bay’ has a rockier vibe with a powerful rhythmic foundation, strong melody and more forceful vocal performance. ‘Outdated 1980’s Gameshow’ is one of the most inventive songs here, while ‘Sparks Don’t Fly’ reminds me of the late, great Elliott Smith albeit with greater vocal expression. ‘Crash Test Dummy’ is dominated by lovely finger-picked guitar, the most delicate vocal and another strong melody.

If there was any justice in this shit world, William Gray would be play-listed on Radio 2 and maybe 6 Music - without a second thought. But without ‘the machine’ behind him and finance for singles it will be difficult. I wish him luck because this beautiful album deserves to be heard by many more people, and at least as many as will be listening to BBC R1’s Sounds Of 2011. So which songs shall I be playing on our radio shows? ‘First Dog In Space’ (probably several times), ‘Waves On The Bay’, ‘Sparks Don’t Fly’ and final track ‘’The Fatalist’.'

Tony Porter - Shakenstir

'For a man who perpetually sounds like he can barely be bothered finishing a sentence, ex-Smokestack William Gray is surprisingly prolific.

This, his second album, comes less than a year after the excellent 'None of The Above'. This is unlikely to disappoint either, albeit delivering a somewhat more detached feel.

There also appears to be a little more ambition here. 'All The Best Ones Do' starts off uncomfortably like Tears For Fears with an Argos drum machine possibly borrowed from Plastic Fuzz, but it blossoms into something rather lovely. 'Open Season' has some perfectly pitched saxophones, 'The Nail That Sticks Up' blends Joe Jackson piano and sci-fi effects, whilst 'Places To Run' could happily sit on a David Lynch soundtrack. None of this should work, but it does.

Central to all this is Gray's sublimely economical voice. Not a breath is wasted, and a wash of wistful, but charming melancholy envelops each track.

On balance, it requires a little more work than its predecessor, but should do more than enough to consolidate Gray's position as a unique talent within a market where differentiators are at a premium.'

Rob Paul Chapman - Vibrations Magazine


released July 4, 2010

Artwork by Layla Garner


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William Gray Hangzhou, China

William Gray was born in Wales but currently lives in China. Difficult to pigeonhole, positive comparisons have been made with Damon Albarn, Elliott Smith, and Bon Iver. His music has received repeated plays on BBC Radio, including 6 Music.

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