By Bruce Sylvester
A perfect disc to get us in the mood for summer fun, 24-year-old George Ezra’s new Staying at Tamara’s (Columbia) is an upbeat follow-up to his 2014 debut Wanted on Voyage, which went gold in the U.S. and quadruple platinum in his native Britain. The CD’s title, by the way, refers to an Airbnb in Barcelona that he enjoyed.
George Ezra Barnett’s singing and writing are a good match for producer Cam Blackwood’s celebratory approach. His songs are chock-full of catchy, upbeat hooks to cheer the listeners (“Hey, pretty smiling people, we’re all right together, we’re all right together”). With all the backup singers joining in on the choruses, we too may feel encouraged to sing along, creating a vibe of audience participation even though we’re not at one of his shows. His supple voice can go from falsetto to baritone, occasionally turning rapid-fire.
He’s a clever songsmith. In “Sugarcoat” a relationship picks up on a trampoline, after which “big jump” refers to falling in love. He uses rhymes we haven’t already heard too many times. For all the cheer, he steers clear of excess idealism with a few cynical lines (“Is the grass of Eden over-rated?”) preceding happy hooks.
His videos too can be a delight, at times with warm generation-jumping comedy. In car-ride “Don’t Matter Now,” George shares the front seat with a large, fluffy dog. Sure, the mood is all fun, but George told Brooklyn magazine’s Kristen Nelsen (http://www.bkmag.com/2017/07/31/george-ezra-budapest-new-album-bowery-ballroom/) that his four-legged travel companion – who arrived on the set with her manager and makeup crew – turned into a diva. Oh well. As the chorus says, “Well, I don’t think about that stuff. No, I don’t think about that stuff. It don’t matter now.”
“Get Away” tells us, “Any boy can dream.” The CD closes softly with a perfect finale: “It’s such a beautiful dream to me.”