❉ A remainder that sometimes the bad times can be endured for the sake of some joy.
Musical pedigrees come no finer than Jessica Lee Morgan’s: her parents come from the worlds of the most influential musicians produced in the UK. Her mother’s the Beatles-signed folk wonder Mary Hopkin and her dad just happens to be the man who showed Bolan and Bowie the glittering path to the stars. For good measure she regularly performs with the Bowie inspired supergroup Holy Holy. These are somewhat daunting standards to live up to.
Fortunately Morgan has chosen precisely the best way to deal with her parental legacy: by striking out and establishing her own identity. Vocally and lyrically she’s far more reminiscent of Vinegar Joe era Elkie Brooks than anything her parents were associated with, but without ever feeling like she’s being imitative. Rightly with such a powerful vocal weapon at her disposal this album centres around her voice and personality.
Around the Block is her second album and first for seven years and uses that break to its advantage. It doesn’t feel like a concept album but instead it has a pleasing thematic unity to it, each song considering experience and how it shapes us. Not necessarily a case of looking back in anger but as coolly and defiantly as you can and learning. It kicks off with I Am Not, which sets the album’s stall out by pointing out how we shouldn’t define ourselves by the surface characteristics others might try to pigeonhole us with. Instead, over some lovely melodic guitar work, we’re encouraged to take people as they are.
From there we’re into defiant territory; overwhelmingly the album deals with recovering from bad relationships. Cut Down Broken Down, What the Hell was I Thinking? and Too Good for You deal with the easy mistakes, the way we fool ourselves in relationships and the moments we work out it’s better to move on than wallow in misery. Following Around the Block itself, whose acoustic rearrangement brings out the song’s wistful nature this strand culminates in the album’s key song Waiting to Leave, the moment all the thinking and pondering works its way up to that crucial decision. For all that it’s not an angry song, more one flavoured with regret and perhaps the waiting indicates the turmoil of the decision that might yet be overturned.
That’s overturned by the next song – Sorry Not Sorry sees Morgan standing strong having established a new life from the wreckage of the past and not regretting a moment. You Get What You Deserve passes on the benefit of experience; exhorting the listener not to keep picking the rotten fruit but starting all over again instead. Nobody Knows adds a lighter, occasionally jazzier element before we come to the lovely Carole King like Key To Your Heart. After everything the album’s protagonist is ready to love again.
The album itself finishes with a live version of This Is My Love Song, bringing things to a joyous conclusion with love flowering again – a beautiful note to bring the album’s narrative to a happy ending after the trials. It’s a real pleasure to see such thought given to the sequencing of the album, telling a story about a relationship coming to a close and bringing that narrative to an optimistic conclusion. And after all, when the world can find so many ways to bring us down, we could all do with a remainder that sometimes the bad times can be endured for the sake of some joy. Morgan’s more than living up to her heritage.
❉ Around The Block was released 16 June 2017 on Space Records is available from www.jessicaleemorgan.com as is Jessica’s last release I Am Not on the Space label. You can find Jessica’s albums on amazon.co.uk and iTunes.