Guitarist Ted Turner will be best known to classic rock aficionados as a founder member of Wishbone Ash – he played with the band for their first four albums, leaving in 1974 to pursue other goals, one of which was a world journey of self-discovery. Ted rejoined Wishbone Ash in 1987 and remained until the mid-nineties, but Divine Timing is the second album of his latest venture, a soulful duo with his wife Majella, whom he married in 2014. Their first album, Better Together in 2018, was well-received and was touted as founding a new genre, New Age Soul.
Certainly this second album fits that description. The lyrics are heavily inspired by a New Age philosophy, and the music is cool and ambient enough for that general mood. At the same time though, the backings and rhythms generate a soft funk feel that gives it a soulful edge. Collarless shirts, crystal pendants, floaty clothes and floaty hair create a decidedly hippy look to the packaging. It’s all very compelling in truth; Majella takes the lead vocals and she has a great voice, clear without being strident, confident without being overpowering, and technically very accomplished. Ted’s calm vocal rumble adds a duet layer, and the two of them played all the instruments and did all the recording and engineering work with Josh Medina in-house at their Turneround studio in Arizona. Only the final mix was outsourced, and they sell both albums via their website on a kind of open-ended pay-what-you-want basis, as long as it’s above a certain minimum amount. Better Together is available as a CD or download, but this new Divine Timing album is, for the present at least, for digital download only.
Opening track WoMan (complete with that upper case ‘M’), features highly reverbed, Knopfler-esque guitar, around which is arranged a sparse backing under echoed vocals from Majella. In spite of the minimal-sounding accompaniment, there is actually quite a lot going on, with electric piano chords, intricate but subtle guitar backings, and hi-hat and rim shot percussion, plus some nicely handled backing vocals, also from Majella.
This pretty much sets out the stall for the whole album. Second track Twin Soul is more of a male-female duet of trust and devotion, not just between the couple but with the universe as a whole. The guitar is highly reminiscent of Kate Bush’s mature Aerial phase; in fact the voice is not that far off either and that comparison keeps coming back to me throughout the set. Cruising The Sky starts with a kind of distant spaceship sound and ambient, heavily reverbed effects, recalling Jon Anderson’s Olias Of Sunhillow. It describes superhuman intelligences watching over the earth, without specifying their nature or defining their origin.
The set continues in the same vein, with occasional forays into reggae and West Coast soft rock, encouraging the listener to trust and be at one with nature, admonishing us to care for the environment and its inhabitants. It’s all very uplifting stuff, and optimistically reassuring, whether or not the listener embraces the same world view. The only song with an edge of pessimism is the darkly ambient Gone Too Far, which questions whether the human race has done exactly that; there are definite echoes of Aerial-era Kate Bush in that one as well.
Final number Flow is about as rock-oriented as it gets, calling to mind the more down-tempo side of early Dire Straits. The songs all veer towards the lengthy; only two of the eight are under six minutes, with Cruising The Sky extending to over seven. Mostly it works well enough; some of them could do with a bit of trimming no doubt, but the atmosphere lends itself to extended pieces.
The musicianship is excellent, the arrangements accomplished and the singing frankly superb. This is not an album designed to blow the listener away with stunning instrumentation, or pin them to the wall with buckets of attitude. Rather, it smiles invitingly and beckons the user in, to a world of peace and love, without fear or compromise. And who doesn’t want that?