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The Zen Bank Of England


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Captain Pop “Shut Up and Sing� (Acoustic Engine, 2006)

Open your ears and listen

This record has the great trick of having an immediacy that fools you into thinking that you are watching the band perform live in your room, seeing knees twitch in time to the music and watch jewels of spittle be beautiful for a moment trapped in the spotlights. They have the righteous passion of the Redskins and a similar jones for pop music, not so dogmatic or polemical though and they have their softer moments like ‘I Can’t Stand to See You Suffer’ or the acoustic guitars that come out for ‘Runaway’. They are better when the tempo is up, a loose skiffle beat carries ‘Waiting for the Storm to Come’ and I’m reminded of Pete Wylie on ‘If You Go Away’ and if you want comparison with anyone in the intelligent pop world then the Mighty Wah is as good a place as any to start, this music is firmly in that tradition, committed, passionate, soulful and ambitious. ‘Falling ‘Apart’ is almost unbearably tender and yet the strongest song is ‘The Child in Your Eyes’ which bursts with a foot-stomping finger-snapping Northern Soul energy. Their love of melody and pop is carried in every line and infects the listener with a religious zeal to stand up and declare, my name’s David, and I’m a Captain Pop addict
Americana UK Nov 2006




- Genre: ‘Rock’ - Release Date: ‘July 2005′

New album from STEVE ROBERTS who has been perfecting his skills for quite some considerable time now.

That being the case however, I guess you’d be forgiven for wondering whether, over time, a certain amount of jaded

cynicism might creep into the proceedings? Forgiven maybe, but forget it,you’d be way off the mark as this album contains a sprightly freshness that suggests a certain joie de vivre is still alive and kicking in Steve’s approach to making music.

It could be argued that previous album, ‘It Just Is’ was the zenith of his career so far, having been nominated for the Mercury Music prize, and this new album certainly lacks some of the polish of that earlier effort but, in no way does it suffer by comparison, quite the opposite. It is ten songs possessed of a naturalness, a minimalist approach, live and lively, and dripping with the evident enjoyment of those taking part.

Never is this more evident than on ‘Little Bird’ with it’s bouncing bass line, clapping rhythm and sprinkled banjo (courtesy of Robbie Taylor) that picks the whole thing up and swings it around the room with summery joy. ‘Circus’ manages to create - from a very limited palette - a sound that perfectly conjures up the ‘alien’ bustle and the blurry colours, smells and sounds of the big top and, with lines like “I’m dizzy with fright at this circus”, suggests the awed excitement of a child. However, look a bit deeper and the song contains a far more ‘adult’ message, the fear and sickness that’s implied relating to the treatment of all taking part (both human and animal performers?), the final line being, “And no-one’s got rights at this circus”. Very cleverly done.

‘Heartbreak’, despite its title, is another song that bounces along to a driving, clapping rhythm, almost reggae-ish, it is again quite minimal, Steve the sole contributor, yet has no problem sounding fully formed. Available as a single it is the album’s most immediate song and has a melody that’ll run around your head for days after hearing it.

‘Stupid, Stupid, Stupid’ is very beatlesque, particularly vocally and contains a gentle lilting rhythm, some nice harmonica and simple, plucked banjo notes. Probably the most maudlin song on offer is ‘Home’, but it has a lovely chorus that is wonderfully lifted back into it’s verses by some exquisite violin (Mr. Taylor again).

Weaker tracks would have to be ‘The Magic’s In The Trick’ that has a slightly uneven feel despite its Harry Potter popular reference to witches and wizards, and ‘To Be Like You’ with it’s waltz like shuffle, that is just a bit too sugary sweet. Indeed both could have been written for or about his children, nothing wrong in that per se (Woody Guthrie wrote some great children’s songs), but in the context of the album their lightness sits a little uncomfortably.

The album finishes with the best and most complete track on offer, “The Ballad Of Alaska”, which is a great song, beautifully played and carrying a message that suggests we should accept who and what we are, not regretting what we’ve ‘missed’ or envying what others have, a message that you feel is at the heart of Steve Roberts’ musical philosophy, perfectly summed up in the album’s title.

author: Christopher Stevens


Steve Roberts

Shake It, Make It, Don’t Fake It

It’s not what you know but who you know and usually it’s even better to have both factors in your favour. A veteran of the Liverpool scene, Steve Roberts’ CV reads like a “Who’s Who” of post-1980 Mersey talent. On his second album he enlists the services of ex-Lightning Seeds and La’s man Martyn Campbell whose beat group-style production technique follows a similar course to The House Of Love’s recent comeback record. Given its origins, it’s safe to assume that the music is going to be melodic and although it doesn’t disappoint on that side, Roberts also adds the kind of warm delivery in keeping with an experienced campaigner. Amongst the highlights is the infectious ‘Heartbreak’, the heartfelt ‘Watch And Listen’ and the “no regrets” closer ‘The Ballad Of Alaska’. Then amongst the back to basic songwriting lurks the real gem ‘Circus’; beneath its achingly good tune lies analogies and metaphors which could well be a swipe at modern day pop music. Elsehwere, though, the mood is a positive one on this old-fashioned but thoroughly likeable record


shake it, make it & don’t fake it CD

Ich weiß auch nicht, aber so geht das nicht weiter. Der englische „Piano-Man” hat sich als bayrischer Kuhhirte herausgestellt und das Henry Fonda Zitat aus „Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod”, das da geht: “Wie soll ich einem Mann vertrauen, der einen Gürtel und Hosenträger trägt? Einem Mann, der nicht einmal seiner eigenen Hose vertraut”, hat sein physisches Bild in mir gefunden. Wenn’s nach mir ginge, müsste ich selbstt die Unterhose mit Hosenträger und Gürtel sichern, soviel Vertrauen habe ich noch in mich. Für so einen Tag, an dem man sowohl Unterhose als auch Hose mit Hosenträger und Gürtel festzurren muss, empfehle ich als Ausgleich, die CD von Steve Roberts & The Bank of England. Hat man diese Platte einmal durchgehört, glaubt man wenigsten wieder an seine Unterhose und deren Halt. Steve Roberts, ehemaliges 16 Tambourines Mitglied, wird bei seiner entspannten Folk-Pop Reise wieder einmal von Martyn Campell (Lightning Seeds, La’s, Richard Ashcroft Band) unterstützt. Gemeinsam und mit noch ein paar Jungs mehr legen sie ein extrem Laidback-Album hin, dass in seinen stärksten Phasen fast an Richard Hawley erinnert. Fast, habe ich gesagt, Freunde des voreiligen Kaufs! Nach Genuss von Richard Hawley Platten bleibt nämlich auch die Hose in Größe 38 fest am Körper kleben und das auch ohne Gürtel und Hosenträger. Das gelingt bei Steve Roberts nicht ganz, bei mir zumindest nicht. Aber man muss selbstverständlich festhalten: Unterhose ist zwar mehr als gehobene Pflicht, Hose dagegen ist die Kür! In diesem Sinne kann ich die Steve Roberts CD (gehobene Pflicht) mehr als empfehlen. Man sollte zumindest auf der Homepage vorbeischauen, denn da kann man beruhigt in alle Songs der CD reinhören.

Steve Roberts ‘It Just Is’ Reviews

Steve Roberts - Album - “It Just Is” (2001) ****

Liverpool singer/songwriter Steve Roberts releases his first solo album on the local Viper label. A veteran of the local music scene, Steve fronted the 16 Tambourines in the early 90’s and now with the help of some Lightning Seeds and a couple of La’s, strikes out on his own. Beatlesque without ever falling into the trap of merely imitating, Steve has delivered an album very much in the ‘classic pop’ vein. Demonstrating an enviable knack for writing instantly familiar melodies, here are 12 songs in a vaguely conceptual form (the album begins with a celebration of the sun and ends with “Go to Bed”). The opening track, the lovely “Pushed Far, Held Near” sets the tone with its’ string accompaniment and sweet, yearning vocal. As very personal, honest songs as they are, the themes are universal - life, love and family - and it’s all sung with such conviction and belief. The piano-led love song “Looking Through Your Eyes” is a personal favourite with a shuffling beat and wonderful harmonies (”you walked through my door, picked me off the floor….I couldn’t love you more”). Steve Roberts was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for this LP and deservedly so. Whether it is actually Americana though, shouldn’t really matter. It’s either good music or it isn’t and if I might borrow the phrase for a moment, “It Just Is”. PB Americana UK


Deservedly nominated for the Mercury Music Award, the solo debut of Steve Roberts - formerly one of The 16 Tambourines - is a genuinely strong album featuring beautifully crafted songs that fit cohesively together. As Roberts himself admitted, it would have suited vinyl even better than a CD since there are definitely two sides here. The first recurrent theme - as reflected by the inner sleeve illustration - is the sun, and the “first side” is indeed wonderfully sunny. This isn’t the relentless, cold and superficial brightness of the boy and girl acts aimed at tweenagers and below, but a warming and enriching infusion of energy. The Sunny One exemplifies this, being a delicious take on the way some people simply scintillate, as does the superb opener, Pushed Far, Held Near. As well as bestowing life the sun is also a danger (one that will ultimately swallow our world) and Roberts is on to this too, with warnings in Silver Sun not to wallow in self-deluding nostalgia or beliefs. Family is another theme, with birth and fatherhood central to Beautiful Girl, insight and deep feeling thankfully replacing the sentiment that often turns such numbers to goo, Mothers Crown showing similar adeptness. Throughout these songs he marries his lyrics to strong melodies, learning the lessons the Beatles and Kinks taught us without the slavishly copying or pillaging some resort to. The stand-out track, Easily Read, is a tight three and a half minutes of boogie-woogie piano, dishy bass, sharp percussion, a typically strong vocal and a lyric that explores how much writers give away of themselves when penning their lyrics. A fit subject for a singer-songwriter, and in Steve Roberts we have one to treasure. (DM) RevolutionsUK


STEVE ROBERTS: IT JUST IS (CD, THE VIPER LABEL) Liverpool’s Viper Label has a hand in history and the future, hence the release of the debut album from singer songwriter Steve Roberts. Roberts brings back the excellence in song composition that seemed to have disappeared with Big Star’s Alex Chilton and The Plimsouls’ Peter Case. On ‘It Just Is’ Steve Roberts confirms his semi god status on Merseyside with a dozen popfolk crackers. On it, you’ll find fine british tuning on americana, particularly when there’s a soberness to the chords which usually tend to be pretty dazey with say, Big Star. Steve Roberts speaks out clearly, when he’s on a down he’s comforting, and when up he invites us to join in. On ‘It Just Is’ the story-telling is full of redemption and consideration. Hitting you best when Roberts is being helped out by awkward piano chords that lead the guitar into a grand overtaking. Radio Mataplan - Holland


‘….a fine, largely acoustic debut album welding the creepy folk pop noir of Love with the subtly grained songwriting style and vocal textures of Neil Finn.’ UNCUT Magazine

” Steve’s album arrived in the office and we all fell in love with it. A beautiful record ” Janice Long BBC Radio 2

‘It Just Is damned good. Enjoyable, beautiful strong songs with great music’. RADIO ATL Belguim

‘A collection of wonderfully crafted songs, memorable melodies and lyrics that aren’t just written because they rhyme but because they say something’. Liverpool Echo

‘ ….. Steve Roberts, delivers with an album steeped in the singer-songwriter tradition, finishing with the immortal refrain getting drunk, getting stoned, go to bed’ BIG ISSUE

‘a fantastic album that grows from it’s acoustic origins to include trumpets, violins and cellos’. Crosby Herald May 2001

‘a natural talent as a songwriter, powerful vocals and brutally honest lyrics contrast with the acoustic instruments to produce an excellent and special album’. THE DAILY POST

- Various


Steve Roberts & Zen Bank of England : From Speke To Waterloo EP March 08 AE007

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Steve Roberts has one of rock & roll's most underrated and essentially unknown voices. Although the soulful singer/songwriter is recognized in his hometown of Liverpool, England, mass exposure is something he has yet to achieve. Like his friend Peter Coyle of the Lotus Eaters, Roberts is an example of a critic's favorite who is perhaps too subtle and soft-spoken to be heard above the din of commercial rubbish. He began his musical career in 1981, posting an ad on a notice board, in search of a band that shared his Jam and Kinks influences. Through it, he was introduced to bassist Tony Elliott. The two became friends and attempted to form a group called Total Action. However, the buddies weren't able to find new members. Elliott then joined Sebastian's Men while Roberts was added to In Dangerous Rhythm. Neither band was successful, and Roberts and Elliott met again in 1984. They started rehearsing at the Ministry in Liverpool as 16 Tambourines, named after the album by Three O'Clock. Through 16 Tambourines Roberts found a vehicle for his smooth, unpretentious vocals. From 1985 to 1986, Roberts sang at over 100 16 Tambourines gigs, which were gaining positive word of mouth. The group was eventually signed to Arista Records and released one LP, How Green Is Your Valley?, in 1990. 16 Tambourines were compared to other Liverpool acts such as the Christians and Black, but they were really without peer, open to unfashionable cocktail jazz and blue-eyed soul touches that created a timeless feel. However, their label didn't see a future with the band and abruptly dumped them. Suddenly orphaned, 16 Tambourines collapsed, leaving Roberts and Elliott to keep the torch burning with the Tambourines. After the Tambourines broke up, Roberts decided to go solo. He created the Acoustic Engine for likeminded musicians like Coyle and Ian McNabb of the Icicle Works to perform in and released It Just Is in 2001, receiving a Mercury Award nomination. His second album 'Shake It Make It & Don't Fake It' was released in 2005 and he also released an album 'Shut Up & Sing' under the name Captain Pop in 2006.
Also in 2006, he formed another group, the Bank of England. ~ Michael Sutton, All Music Guide