Bristol-born Ben Westbeech is truly a talented musician. His vocals are fautless, fresh, soothing – he sounds completely at ease. His music is an unusual fusion of jazz, hip-hop, funk and pop. Welcome to the Best Years of Your Life is a superb album; the problem is, no-one seems to have heard of the man.
“There is a more humanising element at work in music, and one of the manifestations of this is the return to the association of the individual, and his own feelings, own emotion”. So goes the opening of the first track, ‘Welcome’, in a clipped, but strangely funky BBC voice, as Westbeech’s vocals slowly draw in against a quiet piano melody. The relationship between mood and music is clear from the very start, and the warm introduction sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Lead single ‘So Good Today’ might just be the track to get you hooked. It’s simple, charming, and utterly uplifting. Not in a mawkish ‘Man in the Mirror’ way, nor in an insultingly cheery Mika kind of way, Westbeech simply sounds happy, and his mood is infectious. It’s the sort of song that you want to start the day to; it really is brilliant. ‘Get Silly,’ co-written with Stevie Wonder, is a jaunty little track about less than sober times, but the album really picks up with ‘Bright Future’, an instrumental that relies entirely on the drums and the sax to do the work. Make sure to catch this one, it’s an utterly inspiring listen.
Ben whispers in a sombre, emotional way on ‘Taken Away From’: it’s a lot more downbeat, and reflects a move to “break-up” territory. The album’s second instrumental, ‘Grey Skies’ is much more muted and pensive, but works well nonetheless, before the album springs back to life with ‘Stop What You’re Doing,’ which recalls the excitement felt with dating again. ‘In/Out,’ is (for a song about penetration) surprisingly soulful and catchy. It works, and it’s fun to listen to. Third and final instrumental, ‘Beauty,’ is stunningly composed, and haunting, a dazzling way to end an album.
Welcome to the Best Years of Your Life is a story, not unusual in its reliance on romance, but terrific in almost every way. Well-paced, written, sung and produced, I urge you all to give it a try. Westbeech actively builds on the relationship between mood and music, and the result is an album that not only leaves you smiling, but also feeling hopeful. He thoroughly deserves huge success; I honestly believe this is one of the best albums from the last decade.