Shakin’ Stevens isn’t just for Christmas, and like a DogsTrust puppy, is for life. His furious putdown of a deadly sin gives the Welshman a surprising return. Sat there, steely jawed and unmoving in a leather chair on All You Need is Greed, the second single of the already forgotten and looked over Re-Set, Stevens marks a sudden shift. His presence is not one lost on listeners, in fact, every year they are treated to a bit of those magic, Christmas charms. It may be a shock that festive wonders and the perceived singular hit had music surrounding it. As conscious and commendable Re-Set is, Stevens marks a late-stage gift of an album that sets a new standard for those forgotten, albeit always electronically manipulated legends heading into the recording studio one last time.
Opener George avoids the melodramatic potential those sickly piano notes give, an autotune style washed over Stevens’ vocals. His impression here is left with lyrical consistencies. “Nothing is ever quite what it seems,” as Stevens opines on Not in Real Life. He finds his instrumental hooks in the blank canvas wisdom of late-stage Bryan Adams but moulds them well. Not in Real Life is surprisingly and articulately despondent about the world around Stevens. Potent lyrics marry the experience with the heritage Stevens has. He is untouched by the one-hit wonders of a yearly rotation. You cannot play Merry Christmas Everyone in May, which means Stevens is thawed out in a similar fashion to Michael Bublé. What this does though is makes Stevens an inherently fresh artist, as Re-Set provides evidence to. It All Comes Around links up nicely with Not in Real Life, rippling effectiveness and chagrin for those not finding gratitude.
Those acoustics and the brevity of it all, the endgame in sight, give Re-Set this strange overview. It is similar in tension and tone to the latter albums of Johnny Cash, who covered his way to concerns over the world around him. Stevens does much the same. He tests the waters with some country effectiveness, and the slow shift away from pop rock begins. Cementing that shift in May gives Stevens the chance to look back on his work and his generation. Effective and moving, with great aplomb comes Stevens delivers on some sincere tracks, often wrought with some electronic stifling on his voice. Methodical and brooding those later album moments are, some of it comes undone with that manipulation in the studio. Surely Stevens has some power left in those spent vocal cords. He shows he has what it takes to write powerful and moving lyrics still, at the very least.
Neutered vocal impressions on All You Need is Greed show a strange lack of faith in what is left of Stevens’ voice. A shame, but it does not detract much from the overall focus Re-Set brings. Ten new tracks from Stevens and it may very well be his final offering. If it is, Re-Set is a strong pack to go out on. Simplicity dribbles from the obvious conclusions Tick Tock portrays, but the instrumentals underscoring it, the guitar work and the piercing effectiveness it has, works nicely. Saxophone solos are a neat little touch for those wanting more of the good stuff. 2023, the year of the saxophone, especially with The Waeve leading such a charge. Stevens spins ballad rock with a great focus on Re-Set.