BMA single review by Vince Leigh
The Steve Bell Projects is a platform for Steve Bell, its creator and songwriter, to collaborate with vocalists and instrumentalists to bring his writing to life.
It’s A Dream is the latest and features Jennifer Davids and Emma Williams on vocals. Bell’s style is firmly rooted in the pop, soul, and funk traditions of the 1970s and 1980s.
He developed a taste for complex music with lush melodies thanks to the influence of artists he greatly admired, including Earth, Wind, and Fire, the Bee Gees, Al Jarreau, Gino Vannelli, TOTO, George Benson, Dionne Warwick, and, most significantly, David Foster.
His current works show clear signs of this impact. Initially, this is perhaps most obvious in terms of the instrumentation; a blend of electric piano, clean guitar, pads, roaming bass lines and the discreet impressions of a drum machine; all creating an optimum combination for bringing an emotionally charged lyric to the fore. Behind the lead vocal parts are layers and harmonies and the utilisation of reverbs that expand the sonic scope and add an extra dimension to the overall palette.
Regarding the sound, Bell realises the importance of these musical decisions, as he says, ‘I love strings, I don’t see them as the icing, I see them as the flavour that creates the feeling throughout the song. The vocals come with that feeling.’ And he’s not wrong there, of course.
It’s A Dream, when absorbed contextually, contains an easy-going ambience, a subdued temperament persuasively evoking ‘dreamlike’ ephemerality. The lyric’s rather direct yet quite ambiguous nature is a
reflective vessel from which we can imagine our own dreamlike state.
The opening verse constitutes a clear example of this: ‘I can see your love tonight / The writings on the wall / I’ve never seen a smile like yours / And eyes that seem to call’.
We can read what we need into these lines, and this is often where the power resides; this approach, coupled with the melodic inventions and the vulnerability of the vocal performances, fuse into a satisfyingly mainstream celebratory kind of record.
You can hear this track on Spotify or Apple Music
‘In loving memory of Ken 1931-2023‘