Album Review: Ken Sharp – Miniatures


As if acknowledging the title in its truest form, vocalist Ken Sharp, a precocious music journalist best known for writing John Lennon biography Starting Over, has created an impasto caught in the fullness of its ambition. Through thirty two pieces, the songwriter has curated a body fixated on one emotional whole, each of them written within the parameters of a two minute run time. Beautifully produced, and written in the mindset of the modern day music market, Sharp incorporates a hybrid of genres, many of them stemming from the seemingly endless tapestry of Beatle hooks, but baroque textures (crisp as they are) enters the work, making this set of Miniatures amongst the most fruitful in some time. 

 Paul McCartney, finally liberated from The Beatles in 1970, started the lo-fi trend with McCartney, a probing debut album recorded in his Scottish home. Last year, the Beatle released McCartney III, an exceptionally well executed record that made use of the technologies unavailable to him fifty years prior. Sharp’s work carries that DIY DNA in his canon, and the work-diverse as it is- was created by the songwriter entirely alone. 

Hidden in his apartment, Sharp turned to the reliable GarageBand as his way of producing the sprawling work, indulging two minutes of the listeners’ time with the shimmering “Rise”.Sure, it holds a similar name to the Public Image Ltd track, but the end result is infinitely more Lennon than Lydon, as the work embraces  a Beatlesque melody glowing in the forefront. 

 For then it’s off to more Bolan-like territories, as  “Stack O’Records” offers the midway point between the more sincere, cerebral Tyrannosaurus Rex records, and the shock rock theatrics of the Electric Warrior era. But for those who fear that the record is becoming too fixated on pop,  “A Kind of Blue and Smokey Too,” enters to open listeners up to a world where Miles Davis and Smokey Robinson sit like characters in a family film. Everywhere he turns, Sharp brings another instrument to the mix, as the work boasts an explosion of  piano, harpsichord, ebow, organ, mellotron, moog, celeste, vibes, glockenspiel and bell trees.

“Black Coffee, Cigarettes, and Bach’s Minuet,”, an exhilarating cocktail of samba, style and sun, demonstrates an adventurousness that’s impossible to pin down, while the keyboard oriented “When You Fall” captures the romantic spark of the Billy Joel variety. And then there’s “Dollhouse”, capturing the insanity of an inner childish torment, and all in a jaunty fifty seconds. 

 It all leads to an emotional climax on the title track, as Sharp brings the album’s thematic qualities together in one focused package.  The mini pieces, colourful on their own, form something much more emotive in the package of a work much larger than them. In their own way, they show a progression, a movement, a moment, calling to attention the very human desire to single out victories in a sprawling life span.  But however small the contributions may seem, everything holds greater purpose when the story finally comes to its inevitable close.