David Steele: Underneath The Ice
He's a writer of sophisticated songs, incorporating insightful, perceptive lyrics and heartfelt music that appeals to mature, discerning listeners everywhere.
But discerning doesn't mean a cult listenership - David Steele's spanning of soft rock to ballads, with a distinctive voice that recalls a warmer, more intimate version of Sting,shows this man has the ability to reach a truly wide audience.
Steele is multi-talented - he can sing and play a wide variety of styles, from blues to ballads , from acoustic to hard rock. Yet while Underneath The Ice possesses an eclectic range of mostly mid-tempo songs, it has a distinct, unifying
style. Part of that comes from the opportunity to make a record: Steele might be an accomplished guitarist with a voice of genuine richness and brooding depth, but it was only in the mid-nineties that he decided to concentrate seriously on his own music and Underneath The Ice is his debut album (he already has enough new material for a follow-up).
Another reason is John Halliday and Brett Gordon's sympathetic production at Oxford's independent Shonk Studios, and the album's mastering by
Tim Turan at Turan Audio. It's released on Force Majeure, a new independent label dedicated to finding and promoting new talent with real musical ability, which, strange as it may seem, can get overlooked by the majors....
If, in a way, Steele has overlooked himself until now, he hasn't shirked from looking inward at every opportunity. If the album has a subject matter, it can be summed up as David's life experiences, in all its forms. The title track, for example, represents his take
on where he is right now, metaphorically - cocooned, comfortable even, in a netherworld to which it's all too easy to become accustomed, unable to break through the "glass ceiling" of ice into the stratosphere of stardom above.
It is no coincidence that the track is followed by the determinedly optimistic and up-tempo "Rise Up." "Wings to Fly", the great opening track, embodies an imaginative take on relationships. Like other songs on the
album, ("Ghosts" and "Rolling River" to name but two), it is the tenderest of melodies, but shot through with emotional muscle. Each song, in its own way, says something about the way we live our lives - the experiences and chance encounters which shape our thoughts, ambitions and achievements - and puts it to the kind of tune that can be universally connected to.
David is ably supported by his band on the album , which comprises drummer John Halliday and bass
guitarist Brett Gordon (ex-members of the Oxford band, the Candyskins), together with Dan O'Donnell on guitar and Jack Pescod on keyboards. They can swing, as on "Disappear", sparkle and canter on "Bethlehem" (an intriguing approach to the adulation, that, by rights, will come his way…) or hauntingly pulse at the back of the closing "Blind".
As Steele himself says, "It's all too easy to get used to living in the under-achieving comfort-zone which I
describe as 'underneath the ice.' But now it really is time to 'break on through to the other side'." (With apologies to one Jim Morrison….)