The more you discover about Mitch Hiller's history, the more surprising it seems that he isn't already a household name. When you hear him sing, it just seems unbelievable. He has been working with world famous musicians since being taken on as a teenage songwriter by the Dick James Organisation in the late seventies - the same company which nurtured the careers of Lennon & McCartney, Al Stewart, Elton John & Bernie Taupin and Don Black. As a vocalist, he appears on recordings by Chakka Khan, Billy Ocean, Lulu, Christy Moore and Emmett North Junior (Barry White & Isaac Hayes). His vocal talents were also part of the Spitting Image TV show team for 10 years. Although Mitch has always been a live performer, both in his own right, and for many years with 'The Foundations' (don't ask him to sing anything about 'buttercups'!), most of his recordings have been by other singers. He has had silver and gold disks all over Europe, but somehow events have always conspired to prevent his best work being released in the UK. Until now. In 2007 he finally put his day to day work of singing live gigs and teaching students to one side for a while, and spent some time in the studio with some of his favourite musicians recording an album of his own songs. The result is 'Scrapbook' which features 11 songs encompassing the wide range of his writing and singing styles. It really is an amazing collection of songs, of consistently outstanding quality. While Mitch Hiller's style is original, where new music is concerned, people always want to know "What's it like?" Well, Night Games could be by Simply Red; River of Years wouldn't be out of place in a set by Paul Simon. You could imagine Love's a Waste of Time drifting languidly across the evening air, as a romantic summer hit. People Like You has strong echoes of late Beatles, partly because of the strings and high trumpet reminiscent of Penny Lane and partly due to the anthemic chorus. There are some great mellow soul tracks, which you could imagine Marvin Gay singing if he were still with us. Then there are some beautiful ballads, particularly the poignant End of The Line which Mitch wrote after visiting his aunt, shortly before she died, when she was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. In short this is one of those rare albums you can recommend to almost anyone, and be sure that there will be something there which will really appeal to them. Here's what Mitch himself has to say about the songs on the album. The "Scrapbook" story I've spent lots of my time writing for others and performing as a sideman to many artists. My stockpile of songs was high and a few people asked me why I hadn't recorded them myself. "Too busy!" was always my answer, but somehow I made the time and one by one started putting the songs down. Some of the ones I had earmarked for recording didn't get done and some I never intended doing, did. 1. Night Games Written by me, John Marshall and Paul Hirsh We wrote it originally for Sarah Jane Morris. John Marshall and I co-wrote some tracks for her album Heaven, though I don't think her version was released. Kym Mazzelle (American soul diva) also recorded a version. John Marshall is a great singer, guitarist and songwriter. He was my writing partner for some years (Beamish with Tia Maria, vodka and Diet Coke and hanging in Islington). He is the main co-writing contributor to this album. Paul Hirsh has been a friend for a long time he has played superb piano and guitar for Status Quo, Chris Rea, Patricia Kass, his own band Voyager (who I have written songs for both with Paul and the brilliant Paul French, another old friend) and a million other artists. The guitar playing on this track (the only guitar on the album not played by me) comes from talented Aussie and all round good guy, Carl Orr (Billy Cobham Band among others). Thanks Carl. Nixon Rosembert (Mariah Carey among others), another old friend plays excellent bass on this song, the melodica is played by the multi-talented Paul Higgs, who co-produced the album with me. Guy Silk is the funky drummer on this track (he sure sounds fine). 2. End of the line It's a pretty sad song written after I went with my dad to visit my aunt in the home where she spent the final years of her life living with dementia. When I got home, I picked up my Gibson SJ200 which unlike all my other instruments lives in the house (ok my piano's there too) and not my studio and started writing. I changed it to a love song because I felt it was all a bit personal, but then changed it back. The bit about Saturday refers to Tottenham Hotsur, an addiction of mine that a brighter man would have conquered some years back. The lovely Dave Moses plays double bass; I play three different guitars: the Gibson and two Takamines (one with nylon strings). Congas come from my old mate (even if he is an Arsenal supporter) Graham Cuttill. 3. Consolation I wrote this with James Simpson, an old friend (lots of restaurants). We worked on Spitting Image together. He now produces Al Pacino films and hangs with Charlize Theron. The backing vocals are Ben Hackett (Spurs and England - more about him soon), my daughter Jessica Hiller, a talented artist currently studying architecture and me. My family are a musical lot, we have produced tons of singers and writers over the years. Apart from backing vocals Ben Hackett plays bass on this and all the remaining tracks on this album. He is a tasteful player, a good friend and we suffer together. The drums are played by the groovy Mr Marc Cecil, a fine man of good taste and ability. The sweet sax comes from Ian Thompson. Tommo and I are the veterans of about a million gigs together - USA, all over Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean, not to mention some less exciting destinations. He's pretty wild on this track. Paul Carrack did a version of this song. 4. Looking for love Aren't we all? I started writing this in my studio on a sunny day a few years back when there's a knock at my door and in comes Graham Cuttill, coffee in hand. He starts singing along, throwing lyrics and ideas at me and the song was done. Graham plays drums on this, Ben on bass, some tasteful piano from Higgsy and some sweet backing vocals from the lovely Emma Wilson and the equally lovely Michael Finnigan, two singers who I greatly admire (a couple of shining lights in a world of pretenders). This tune has become a bit of a gig favourite. Especially with Roger (a West Ham-loving mate of mine). 5. Love's a waste of time Based on a story a lovesick girl told me and I just converted it into a song. I think it was the first track we recorded for the album. It's me on piano, Ben (the stalwart) on bass and Higgsy on flugel. We tried a few solos but none really worked until Paul's tender tones graced the track. It's really a girl's song but Monique (the wife) heard me singing it and really liked it so I thought i'd have a go. The lyric's a bit sad but what the hell, not every song can be Happy Birthday. 6. System Kym Mazzelle was co-writer along with Johnny Marshall and myself - she also recorded this song. I play my lovely USA blonde Strat, Ben on bass, Paul Higgs on keyboards, then Emma and me are on backing vocals. I love the crisp drum sound on this. Well done mr. Higgs! Of course having Graham Cuttill playing them always helps. 7. Heartland Chris Neil produced a version of this with Irish singer Johnny Logan. It charted in Ireland, Germany, Belgium and some other places. I sang on that version and so did co-writer Michael McKell, an old friend and collaborator who's currently playing Dr. Nick West in "Doctors". Aaah Michael. We could tell a tale or two of some crazy times. It's from a batch of songs we wrote together a few years back (lots of tea and sandwiches). Elaine Paige recorded one of the others. I play the piano and guitars on this one with Graham Cuttill on drums, the perennial box-office-favourite, Ben Hackett on bass and Emma W on backing vocals. It's using Heartland as a place or person you long to be with. I think we liked the word and so adapted it for our use, very American for two London boys. 8. River of years The song is about the passing of time and boy does it pass. I dedicated the third verse to all the frauds out there: "freaks and pretenders see them standing in line wearing badges of glory that I once thought were mine". Most of the places in the world of success that should have gone to the talented have been stolen by bluffers. It amazes me when I hear tracks written, recorded and performed by artists of the quality of someone like my brother, Lawrence, (he's also doing some great tracks with my niece Sophie), that people who borrow the word "singer" but never own it become stars. Anyway enough about that. Let's forget bitter and twisted. Michael Finnigan, Emma Wilson, Jessie Hiller (a clever and beautiful young lady) and I get involved in some non western vocals, some lovely stuff from Guy Silk on drums and percussion, of course the excellent Ben H on bass, Paul Higgs on piano and more. 9. People Like You A bit of a weird one. I suppose it's a tribute or is it a thank you to The Beatles plus a hint of a few other bands I love. Ben, a big Beatles fan (let's face it who isn't? Maybe some clever dicks who haven't even embraced the joyous catalogue) plays bass; Mr. Higgs is on piano, trumpet and various keyboards and the lovely Marc Cecil on drums. 10. Not Falling Again Johnny Marshall, Simon Douglas and I wrote this when we were in a band called "The Raving Jeckylls". It all seems a long time ago now. The usual suspects play: Paul, Ben, a tasty drum track from Marc C, Southend's premier groove machine. Emma, Michael, Ben, me and Andy Williamson are all involved with the backing vocals. Andy has been a major contributor behind the scenes for this album. As well as coming up with the cover photo and design he is the mastermind behind Flat Five Records. I thank him for his contributions to this album, not the least of which is his tasteful tenor solo on this tune. Those of you who have paid attention (sorry, I haven't and i'm writing this stuff) will have seen John Marshall's name crop up. We did a ton of writing and playing together. He's in far off Cornwall now and I miss some of those great days but as we all know we just keep floating down that "river of years". I regret that there are no co-written songs on this album with my brother Lawrence, Terry Murray, an old friend and world class guitarist and an ex song writing partner, along with Dave Fryer we wrote dozens of songs together, Paul French, huge talent and drinking partner (remember the Muswell Hill days?) and so many others. 11. Lullaby For Emily That's what it was a song for my daughter Emily, she's a fantastic girl and always has been, she really deserved her own song. The song likens sleep to a journey. I play three different acoustic guitars on this one, my SJ 200, and my two Takamines, by the way the electrics I use are my Strat, a Telecaster and an Ibanez semi-acoustic. I love guitars, I have to try and control myself not to keep buying more. Ben as expected plays bass on this song and as always does a great job - he's a fine guitarist, writer and singer too! Higgsy on keyboards (i'm almost sorry the albums done, we had some good times doing it) and the wonderfully talented Jeff Moore on the violin solo, it works so well and was executed with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of taste, thanks Jeff!! Well i'm tired now, lots of words and not a tune in sight. I'd like to thank a few people, firstly all the people who played or sung on this album. It was a pleasure to work with all of you. Paul Higgs, lots of work and lots of laughs. It was fun and always a treat, thanks. My wife Monique for putting up with this madman for many years, my daughters Emily and Jess for being kind, loving caring and making me proud. My dad for passing on a voice and for being mad, along with my brother, Lawrence (where did my mum and dad get these names from, i've always struggled with Mitchell) who is equally mad. Thanks to Mandy Parnell, for the great mastering, and a special thanks to all my friends and supporters. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the music. Stay cool Mitch.
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