Reviewed by Sue Davidson
The Restless Soul album was released in January 2014. All the tracks were recorded and produced by Ivan except for “Jonny Guitar” which was recorded and produced by Mark Woolridge from Soundguys in Chadstone, Melbourne. All songs were written by Ivan during a time of immense financial struggle and personal hardship. His father died during this period of his life, track five on the album titled “Miss You” is a heartfelt tribute to his father and was written for his mother and sister as a way of dealing with the intense grief that he and his family struggled to come to terms with in that period of life.
Opening track “Cathies Lane” was played at gigs around Melbourne when Ivan was the frontman for the band Crimson Face. Other members included his longtime friend Darren Wheeler on bass guitar/vocals and Garry Heron on drums. The vocals on this track are delivered with a deliberate tone of sarcasm that is typical of the music that Ivan listened to as a teenager, the subject matter is a sly dig at the hypocrisy of various church organisations; Cathies Lane is well known in Melbourne as a road that has many churches of various denominations. The film clip to the song was put together out of footage taken at the last gig that Crimson Face played in Musicland in Fawkner, Melbourne.
The second track “Alison Calling” has a very pop/rock sound to it. The mandolin melodies that are played intermittently throughout the song give it a distinctive sound reminiscent of REM’s “Losing My Religion”, you can almost hear Michael Stipe singing in this track. The subject matter and the laid back delivery of the vocals gives the track a moody edge. The chorus suggests that it is about an unwanted visitor named Alison, but Ivan explained that Alison is a metaphor for the mental illness schizophrenia.
“Jonny Guitar” could be easily mistaken as being hopelessly cliched, but on a closer listen you can hear elements of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, while the acoustic guitar solo evokes the sound of The Church. The harmonies in the chorus add a nice touch to the baritone vocals throughout.
Title track “Restless Soul” has a folk/rock feel to it, the string section in the intro gives the impression that Ivan would be just as comfortable playing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as he would be playing solo in a cafe on acoustic guitar. The lyrics in the song capture a sense of vulnerability and helplessness in the verses progressing to a state of hopelessness in the chorus yet at the same time the mood of the music leaves you with an eerie sense of that not all is bad with the world, the simple triad intro and ending cap off this number nicely to leave you with the obligatory Hollywood happy ending.
The piano solo at the end of Miss You” has some elegant scale runs in G major that is an unexpected treat to the ear. This track reminds you of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” or Marianne Faithful’s “As Tears Go By “, showing a maturity in its honesty and childlike simplicity.
The sixth track “Cool Down” is a mixed bag of influences. The bridge recalls British alt/rockers The Jesus and Mary Chain and the lead solo could have been played by George Harrison in the Traveling Wilburys. It could easily be written off due to the cliched subject matter if it weren’t for the catchy melodies and a brass section that grabs your attention .
“I Need You” has its basis in acoustic blues in the vein of Robert Johnson, with a typical blues shuffle rhythm. The big band brass section in this track came from the heavy influence Ivan’s father had on him at an early age; Ivan told of his father’s disappointment when he traded in the alto saxophone that his father had bought him for a Fender Stratocaster. The electric piano in this track almost goes unnoticed but adds a type of quirkyness to the rhythm. The bass guitar runs are old-school twelve bar blues, which gives the groove of the song a real sense of motion.
The eighth track “Slave” is a grunge/punk tune which paints a picture of the bleak dissatisfaction of feeling like you have to live up to everyone else’s expectations of you in life. The beginning of the track is reminiscent of The Cure back in the 80s with the synthesiser melody setting the tone right from the first bar. There are some interesting choices of instrumentation in this song, the deliberate grungy production adds to the sentiments of dissatisfaction in the lyrics, and the lo-fi sound deceptively lulls you into thinking the artist just randomly hurled paint at a blank canvas and tried to palm it off as artistic genius. This shows a willingness to not be afraid to experiment, and to go against the music industry’s annoying habit of always playing it safe and leaving the musical landscape in a state of terminal boredom.
“Simple” shows off the versatility of Ivan’s skill as a songwriter and composer. The key to this song is probably the unexpected irony of writing a simple song and then having the audacity to call the song “Simple”. I can only speculate as to whether the author’s lyrics are unintentionally ironic or philosophically attempting to address the modern problem of making everything so mind bogglingly complicated. This track has some definite folk/country influences, the subtle use of the french horn throughout this song creates a sense of ambience that would be a perfect soundtrack to any Hollywood movie.
The final track “Don’t Let Me Down” sounds like it crawled out of Kurt Cobain’s rubbish bin. The tremolo guitar intro gives this song a distinctive groove, the unusual chord progression in the verse allows for the utterly desperate lyrical hook in the second line to basically jump out of your iPod and smack you in the face, while the second part of the first verse is equally confronting and brutal. The raw build up to the chorus needs a painkiller to ease it seamlessly into an anthemic chorus. The second verse is equally disturbing in its lyrical content and picks up where the first verse left off. The middle part of the track surprisingly changes gear into a dark melodic interlude, the build up to the last chorus sounded like it had run out of anaesthetic on the operating table until the final chorus finally put this tune out of its misery to spare it from any more suffering. What a great way to end this album.
Restless Soul is brutal in its honesty, at times utterly helpless and desperate yet peculiarly sanguine at the same time. It’s difficult to define the work of Ivan Beecroft or put it into one particular style or genre, he defies any sort of category. Artists such as Ivan don’t aspire to become famous, their only motivation is to inspire others to create and to be the best that they can be and most of all to be themselves. You can leave artists like this with only a clapped-out guitar with one string and they will create the most sublime art effortlessly. Ivan once told me that he didn’t choose music but that it chose him, which probably explains his determination in taking on such a huge project as writing, performing, producing, mixing, mastering and producing video clips for Restless Soul.