by Thomas Bedward December 07, 2017
Alphonso Archer is a musician with more experience and history than most. A songwriter and multi-instrumentalist in his early 50’s, he has spent most of his life experimenting with genres, refining his skills, and being the very heart of several bands. Ranging from heavy metal to jazz and funk, Alphonso has managed to make his mark in a number of ways, but a solo project had always seemed to escape his grasp. Until now.
The story behind ‘Formula For Life’, Alphonso’s debut solo work, is one of survival and personal reflection. In November of 2016, Alphonso was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a condition he still survives with today. It was a heavy blow, but not the only piece of bad news that the year had in store, and in December he visited his local GP because of a sharp pain in his eye. The GP told him it was simply due to dry eyes from wearing his contact lenses, dismissing Alphonso’s complaints and pain. Two days of arguing and a well-placed A4 page complaint letter, and the doctors finally admitted him for a brain scan. What they found was an arteriovenous malformation on his brain alongside an aneurysm.
In the Summer of 2017, Alphonso underwent radiosurgery. He was given the formula to calculate the risk of a bleed on the brain or stroke, which eventually became his ‘Formula For Life’. Thankfully everything went well for Alphonso, and the events that passed became the inspiration for his album. Alongside a score of top session musicians in the US, he brought his songs to life.
A nine-track collection that is instilled with Alphonso’s own tastes and philosophies, ‘Formula For Life’ is a fine balance of opposites. Opening track ‘You Don’t Even Notice’ emits a dark atmosphere, borrowing vocals from Sherena Dugani and portraying powerful emotions with every beat. Meanwhile, the dark is balanced by festive light on the Christmas single ‘Peace & Love New Reigns (Christmas Is Here)’, a small piece with a big flare that could easily fit onto any Christmas compilation. Elsewhere, tracks such as ‘Omens’, co-written by Will Lawton, slow down the tempo of the album, moving away from fast-paced anthemics in favour of more restrained, acoustic melodies. The balance is restored and the tempo cranked up through ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone (RAP Version)’ and ‘Crazy World’, two tracks with amped-up production and unrelenting energy.
A bright light undeniably shines on the title track, ‘Formula For Life’, a slick jazz-infused piece that manages to bring emotion and entertainment in equal, brilliant amounts. It’s an incandescent flash in a very mixed, but entertaining release.
Without a doubt, there is talent and vision aplenty in ‘Formula For Life’, with the thoughts, reflections, and philosophies of Alphonso’s past year spilling out and creating a patchwork of vibrant colour and sound. It’s all genuine, honest, and well built, but it lacks cohesion, staggering between styles and ideas without a real logical progression. It’s not a bad thing in essence, but it does dampen the overall impact of the project, firing off various threads of sound rather than a unified and poignant tapestry. It’s a case where the strength of the individual tracks is somehow greater than their overall sum, a mistake that can be all too common in music. To condemn the album purely on that one error would be unfair though, and in the end, ‘Formula For Life’ is a release that is definitely worth your attention.
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