After years of producing outstanding records with the Felice Brothers and The Duke & The King, Simone Felice’s debut solo album fell a little short. When it hit its highs, it was beautiful (look no further than opener Hey Bobby Ray), but elsewhere a mix of different arrangement and production styles fell flat.
Set against that background, the New York Times EP makes for a particularly interesting listen. ‘The New York Times’ itself was one of the better cuts from the album, blending his ability to go straight for the heart lyrically with a beautifully understated piano-led rhythm but it is the rest of this collection we are hearing for the first time.
The remaining four tracks are drawn from the album sessions but none of these songs, in any form, made it onto the album. More importantly, they never seemed to get into the hands of some of the occasionally over-zealous producers who combined on the LP. This is just Simone and his guitar.
‘Great Big Circle’ is the one that grabs you and begs the question as to why it didn’t make the final cut, but there is plenty to enjoy elsewhere. Felice often sounds so delicate he might break (a not entirely unreasonable fear given his medical history) and does so again on ‘War Movie’ while ‘The‘Radio’ recalls wistfully the days of trying to make a break as a young musician. ‘California’ is a wonderfully evocative song that instantly transports you to the famous Route 1 running down the coastline ‘out where this country ends’.
By no means are they the strongest songs Felice has come up with over recent years, but for anyone who was left feeling that so much of the last album was let down by its sound, stripping it back to the raw songwriting that makes Felice so special is a joy.