The Full English – Reviews
April 2005)

The Full English Preview – Paolo Carnelli

If anyone was worried about the new Judge album now can relax: The Full English is 100% Judge Smith. It features a bunch of stories and tales, a mixture of singer-songwriter stuff, theatre and some nice surprises. Developed with an intimate line up (Judge recently defined it an “unplugged” album) The Full English strikes and conquers the listener above all with its organic and coherent form: once you’re connected with the record’s mood it’s difficult not to be fascinated.

Despite Judge sail(ing) gladly from tango to reggae, from folk to rock, his strength and charisma keep it all on track. Also, the beautiful production (courtesy of Marco Olivotto/Labour of Love Records, who already earned a very good reputation producing the Jackson in Guastalla DVD a couple of years ago), and the perfect choice of the musicians (John Ellis on guitars, Michael Ward-Bergeman on piano, organ and accordion, and René van Commenée on drums and percussion) has a big part in it. Especially, Ward-Bergeman’s accordion work is one of the nicest surprises of the album, as it both adds a new and melancholic touch to such classic tracks as Carpet Tiles (previously released on the Dome of discovery album) and donates a fresh rhythmic pulse to the more funny “Monty Python kind of stuff” (Like a Rock, Tell me you love me). But all the instruments involved are pretty appropriate to the album’s mood, as the warm, typically 70ish organ and piano sounds perfectly match wth the elegant acoustic guitar work by Ellis and of course with Judge’s heartfelt vocal performance.

So we have a good compilation of messed relations stories, treated with the typical English kind of irony: Seemed such a nice boy (with a political hook in the lyrics) and Not drowning but waving would not have been out of place on Masters Spoon River Anthology, whilst the Take it away, Advance the spark and Chris does it better beat flavour is very enjoyable. A solemn rendition of It’s the silence that kills you from the Curly’s Airship album end(s) it all in a very impressive way. But that’s not enough, as we also get a video track as a bonus: it’s a Judge interview filmed in the Labour of Love studios, that allows us to learn a bit more about the making of the album, the musicians involved, the future plans and… the VdGG reunion.

So, what else? The Full English is a beautiful album, you’ll get addicted to it. Certainly Judge has the gift of being able to put together some small stories and a couple of chords in such a sincere and fresh way that you cannot be left indifferent.

Van der Graaf Generator
(6 May 2005)

‘The Full English’ – Review – Jim Christopulos

In an interview several years ago, Peter Hammill called Judge Smith one of the world’s undiscovered geniuses. Judge’s new album, The Full English, goes a long way toward reinforcing this view. In one way, The Full English is at the other end of the spectrum inhabited by Curly’s Airships. The new album is a (much) shorter collection of songs than the "song story" opus Judge released a few years ago. Both, however, share his unique and often brilliant take on characterization, as well as his gift for composing catchy, deceptively simple melodies with seemingly natural ease.

Listening to the new CD, one is immediately struck by several things. First, the clarity of sound is astonishing; Marco Olivotto comes through with a wonderful production job and The Full English is imbued with a warm, rich vibe throughout.

Some of this can be attributed to the arrangements. Judge consciously set out to record a more stripped down, acoustic oriented album. The unique instrumentation (guitar, keyboard, percussion) adds immeasurably to the charm of the songs in a way that a full-on "rock band" would be hard pressed to deliver.

And there are the songs themselves. Judge has a talent for creating melodies and hooks that ingratiate themselves into the listener’s consciousness for days after hearing them. The songs are catchy, but they’re also good so one doesn’t mind them taking up residency in one’s head for sometime after listening to them.

Lyrically, Judge is often given points for the humorous storylines and characters he concocts. Rightly so, as it is pretty difficult to not smile while listening to much of his work. But there is also an acute comprehension of human nature at work here. Whether it be the alluring stories he offers such
as "Carpet Tiles" (where a couple start up a business before plans go awry) and "We’ll Always Have Paris" (which presents a lover anguishing over the end of an adulterous tryst), or the multiple characters he renders who merely have the title of a song in common ("Not Drowning, But Waving", "Seemed Such a Nice Boy"), he displays a depth of understanding about life’s various situations and the players that partake. These are not merely cardboard cutout characters trotted out for the purpose of a punch line. Judge brings them to life and gives them complexity even in the context of short character sketches. The Full English delivers on all fronts: production, performance, and composition (both musically and lyrically). A basically cheerful person himself, Judge probably has a positive outlook on life and the world around him. But if there is any justice, then he shouldn’t have to remain an "undiscovered genius" forever.

logo Babyblauwe Seiten
(16 May 2005)

‘The Full English’ – Review – Andreas Pläschke (Translation)

The title is a program – such music could be written only by an Englishman. After his last recording had presented such a shining comeback, the new CD of Judge Smith should not disappoint. It shines with whimsical inspiration. There whimpers, in "I want some of it" a ‘fatback’ organ about a straight rock rhythm, there is full male-voice choir and the slightly operatic voice which Smith also used so successfully with the predecessor.

Generally his kind of writing is clearly recognizable. Anyone who knows his own song cycle ‘Curly’s Airships’ or Hammill’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, will find again here many familiar ingredients. The essential difference is the instrumentation. The titles of this CD, apart from the organ and an occasional electric guitar, are very acoustic; the accordion or the piano control many songs. Hence, the titles remind one almost of French chansons. Also his voice which was not rich in variations enough for me in CURLY’S AIRSHIPS, fits with this instrumentation much better. An successful example is "It’s the silence that kills you" which reminds one, by the way, strongly of VdGG or Hammill. Also his texts are witty. One need hear (or read) only the last track where he speaks about sampler or music critic etc., including acoustic examples (of this).

Result: Twelve fleet-footed, buoyant, never predicable songs arranged cleverly and acoustically with slightly operatic elements. Wittily and nicely done. RATED 10/15.

Der Titel ist Programm – solche Musik kann nur ein Engländer schreiben. Nachdem seine alte Band ein glänzendes Comeback vorgelegt hatte, soll die neue CD von Judge Smith nicht untergehen. Sie glänzt mit skurillen Einfällen. Da wimmert z.B. in "I want some of it" die Schweineorgel über einen straighten Rockrhythmus, es gibt vollen Männerchor und eine leicht opernhafte Stimme, die Smith auch schon beim Vorgänger so gekonnt einsetzte.

Überhaupt ist seine Art zu schreiben, deutlich erkennbar. Wer Hammills "The Fall of the House of Usher" oder Smith eigenen Songzyklus "Curly’s Airships kennt, wird hier viele Zutaten wiederfinden. Wesentlicher Unterschied ist die Instrumentierung, die Titel dieser CD kommen bis auf die Orgel und einer gelegentlichen E-Gitarre sehr akustisch daher, das Akkordeon oder das Piano beherrschen viele Songs. Daher erinnern die Titel fast an französische Chansons. Auch seine Stimme, die mir bei CURLY’S AIRSHIP noch zu wenig variantenreich war, passt bei dieser Instrumentierung deutlich besser. Gelungenes Beispiel hiefür "It’s the silence that kills you", das übrigens stark an VdGG oder Hammill erinnert. Auch seine Texte sind witzig. Man höre (oder lese) nur den letzten Track, wo er sich über Sampler oder Musikkritiker etc. ausläßt, inklusive akustischer Beispiele.

Fazit: Zwölf leichtfüßige, beschwingte, nie laut werdende Songs, clever arrangiert und akustisch mit leicht opernhaften Elementen. Witzig und schön