Harry James Angus
‘Struggle With Glory’
Review by: Chelsea Wood
Struggle With Glory is the brand new album from Australia’s premiere Jazz chameleon, Harry James Angus. By taking classic tales from Greek Mythology and infusing them with the glorious workings of Gospel, Jazz, and Soul, Struggle With Glory, captures the drama and glory of particular mythical tales against a musical backdrop.
Harry James Angus has come a long way throughout his career, and since finding fame, and both critical and commercial success at home and across the globe with Australia’s beloved, The Cat Empire, the multi talented Jazz devotee has succeeded in branching out with a number of acclaimed projects of his own. Struggle With Glory is the next step in the fascinating musical journey of the Melbourne born, Mullumbimby based musician. Delving deep within and away from the realms of the genre of which he is primarily recognised, the album signifies an important chapter in Angus‘ career; fore fronting his development and dedication, allowing him to edge closer towards his ideal musical vision. In a stark contrast to the loud, brash, Latin infused style of work with The Cat Empire, this solo endeavour sees Angus incorporate a more traditional Jazz style of playing which in turn connects deeply to the roots of his musical journey.
The concept and creativity behind Struggle With Glory comes from the mixture of a love of Jazz and Gospel traditions, as well as an interest in Greek Mythology. Interestingly so, it seems that these otherwise unrelated areas intertwine through melodic and lyrical drama while connecting with the underlying darkness of human emotion. Angus describes being drawn to the tales because, ‘the myths are such great stories, but more than that they tell us something about ourselves, these deep dark stories can mean so many things.’ The album is filled with tragedy, emotion, and intense drama as these ancient tales are brought to life against a delightful blend of traditional Jazz and Gospel tropes, Angus‘ seemingly effortless perfect playing style, and an all encompassing warm production.
From the opening line, ‘If you take my light, I will take your light.‘ I Saw Red opens the album with a moment full of drama and tension. Based on The Rage of Achilles, which sees Achilles massacre everyone out of the rage of losing his love Patroclus, who was killed during a battle, these emotions are re-imagined through the track’s gradual build in tempo and volume through the complimenting beat, piano work, and vocal harmonies. The chorus places Gospel harmonies and Angus‘ effortless vocals front and centre with a demand to be heard.
To contrast with this track, Kill The Priest follows filled to the brim with thrilling trumpet work. As the only song on the album that isn’t drawn from a myth but rather from ideas within The Golden Bough (a famous book on Mythology), the song’s subject matter still toys with the same dark themes as the Greek Myths, painting the picture of a Roman Ritual where the priest guarding a sacred place can be replaced by the one who kills him. As Angus tells, ‘So, you’re the priest, but the whole time you know that at any moment the next priest that is going to replace him could be sneaking up behind him with a knife. I just thought that was quite an interesting concept.‘
Although returning to the stories of Greek Mythology, Angus uses a different writing technique in Paper Faces, with the narrative being told from a parent’s point of view. The song depicts the story of Persephone and Hades, with Persephone, the daughter of the goddess of Harvest being kidnapped to become Hades’ bride. Following the same melancholy vibe is The Light of the Moon. Although set to a gloomy beat, this love song tells of the Moon goddess who fell in love with a simple shepherd and could only visit him while he was sleeping. Filled with longing and devotion this song adds romance to the album.
In relation to this emotive track, the album’s title track, Struggle With Glory allows Angus‘ moving vocal work to shine through repetitive lyrics, emphasising the piece’s overall ambience. Meanwhile, The Lotus Tree provides a change to a slower yet smooth pace in the album, with tension then added back again during Struggle With Glory (Reprise). Angus’ vocal work blossoms into delight for the album’s closing track, Tie Me To the Mast.
Ultimately, Harry James Angus’ work throughout Struggle With Glory perfectly sums up his dedication to his craft. The innovative combination of the tales of Greek Mythology set to his recognisable Jazz style while featuring Gospel elements, highlights his talent and strong presence in the Australian music
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