Welcome to Whateverland
Hailing from Wigan, Southport plus points in between, and operating mainly but not exclusively as a 5-piece, Vision Thing can quite rightly claim to be folk’s best kept secret. Despite being an award-winning band with several well received albums behind them, they have yet to break out to the larger audience that they richly deserve – especially if classy folk-rock is your thing.
Whateverland floats into your life with the ethereal beauty of opening track Sail On If it had been designed with a purpose in mind, it would have been for people who want to lie on the grass in the sun at a festival, listening to music that matches the moment and the passage of the clouds overhead. All of which makes track 2 come as a great surprise. Woman Like Me must be one of my favourite songs of recent times – delivered perfectly by female singer Cherlene, it is an upbeat anthem of the highest order, with lyrics sharper than a samurai sword and more edge than the White Cliffs of Dover. it is all the more special for the fact that, while Cherlene owns the song completely, it was actually written by guitarist and sometime vocalist Pete Cunliffe. In the right hands and with the right media machine behind it, this would be belting out of every radio in the land.
In the difficult spot to follow a tour-de-force, so there follows a change. of tack to a Smugglers tale and a more traditional folk sound and structure before heading to another highlight – in my favourite track 4 spot! Welcome to Whateverland, not quite the title track, is the gentlest savaging of the current state of our nation that you are likely to come across – with Pete Cunliffe taking the lead vocal duties and Cherlene offering vocal counterpoint and towards the end, what may pass in the folk world for what I believe is rap music.
From the present we are transported to Victorian times for King of Edge Hill, inspired by the story of eccentric philanthropist James Williamson, who provided work for returning soldiers from the Napoleonic War, as well as other unemployed Liverpudlians, creating vast underground chambers under an area of the city in which he also created strangely beautiful housing.
Feels Like Coming Home offers classic folk-rock with a tinge of prog, calling to mind the likes of Renaissance, gentler Steeleye and a female led Fairport, Cherlene’s voice quite rightly gains many plaudits, combining power and beauty, but most importantly, a character of its own – once you have been introduced to it, you will have no trouble recognising it again.
Galleons Sail sees the bass kick in and is all the better for it, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a stomper every once in a while, yet many of the songs have a plaintive aspect – often signalled by the understated violin of David Windsor, and it should be noted that the harmonium of Paul Cunliffe brings a different colour to the Vision Thing palette when deployed.
A couple of reflective tracks usher in the skiffle feel of This Is My Soul, leaving Stay The Road to see out the album in style, relaxed, yet powerful at the same time, and an excellent reminder of their mastery of melody.
If you don’t yet know Vision Thing, this is your chance to find out. The album is available via their website and also to but and download from Bandcamp, plus all the usual streaming platforms. Local clubs and venues could do worse than to offer them a spot = be that big or otherwise.