Frank Turner has worked tirelessly over the last 12 years to become one of Britain’s most revered songwriter’s, his songs have always had a direct and honest approach with a heart on his sleeve quality to his lyrics underlined by melodies that serve his stories of life’s trials and tribulations. His insatiable work ethic and constant touring has earned him a loyal fan base and after playing over 2,000 shows, releasing 6 albums, selling one million records, it’s about time that Turner took a step back and reflected on an impressive body of work.
‘Songbook’ is an accumulation of some of Frank Turner’s finest moments as a singer/songwriter – it’s a 29-track release made up of Frank’s extensive back catalogue and includes 10 reworked versions of old favourites. Turner’s best-known tracks are at hand, and sit alongside new track, ‘There She Is’ which is another open and candid tale of love and romance which sound takes influence from The Cure and delivers his most melancholic performance yet.
The first disc does well in the way of introducing the less familiar to Frank’s work from the fiery and raucous ‘Four Simple Words’, to the high energy sing a long ‘If Ever I Stray’ and the blast of optimism on ‘Get Better’ as well as showcasing his more tender moments on ‘Mittens’ and ‘The Opening Act of Spring’. The tracks highlight his progressive and diverse nature but also underline his passion for creating music that’s both honest and engaging.
As well as releasing a new track, the second disc caters towards his more loyal followers with old favourites and forgotten gems being rearranged and rerecorded which offers a refreshing insight into how Turner has matured as a musician. Opening track ‘Photosynthesis’ has been a staple on his setlist for many years and has been reworked to more closely resemble how it sounds live with his band, The Sleeping Souls, it has a finesse quality while also being slightly more delicate, this continues for the most part into tracks such as ‘The Way I Tend to Be’ and ‘Glorious You’.
There is an over-arching theme of a stripped-down vibe to the songs with ‘Polaroid Picture’ and ‘Josephine’ taking on a slower tempo that gives the songs a new lease of life. The lesser known tracks such as ‘Love Forty Down’ and ‘Broken Piano’ are also reworked into the mix, the former stripped down to its bones with a less scattered and busy approach in favour of gentle strings and backing vocal harmonies, the latter feels more atmospheric with raw vocals that lead into crashing guitar sounds that extend on for a hauntingly long time.
‘Long Live the Queen’ – one of Turner’s more lyrically personal tracks goes against the grain as the penultimate track is a punk riff heavy reworking that once again resembles the way he has rearranged the track for his live shows. ‘The Ballad of Me & My Friends’ is the befitting finale to ‘Songbook’ as it has become one of Frank’s most well recognised anthems, it’s reworked into more of a piano lead ballad with his vocals sounding slightly more subdued and with a little less of a “us against the world” attitude.
‘Songbook’ is an overall testament to the fervour and passion that people love about Frank Turner, it’s first disc is a perfect introduction to his work while giving fans a chance to reflect on the journey he has taken them on. The second disc highlights his talents as a musician as the reworked tracks excel in their rerecorded format, his voice is more expressive, the arrangements have more finesse and a growing maturity that seeps through each track. The compilation is a closing of a chapter and allows us one last look at the past while giving a hint at what the future holds for this evergreen talent.
‘Songbook’ is available via Polydor records on 24th November.