Review Summary: At his most elegant and smooth…
A few months after the release of The Great Plains
, Norwegian singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl traveled to Los Angeles to work on what became his latest LP, All These Things
. He entered the studio alongside producer Larry Klein to flesh out his ideas and the two were joined by some really seasoned musicians. Having James Gadson or Brian MacLeod on drums, Dean Parks & David Baerwald (guitar), Patrick Warren (keyboards) as well as Dan Lutz on bass all together in a room is something to remember. They worked on hundreds of albums and toured with some of the biggest artists ranging from pop to jazz. Moreover, all the songs were finished and recorded live at Sunset Sound Studios in three days with impressive results. Involving such veterans might make you think the album focuses on displaying everybody’s prowess, however, it actually doesn’t. Thomas is still the center point, whereas the others simply add an elegant touch to the songs. This is definitely his most carefully produced project and the man clearly leveled up his performance amid such skilled guests.
Musically, All These Things
lands somewhere between the late-night, intimate atmosphere of One Day You’ll Dance for Me, New York City
, Americana influences of The Great Plains
and the downtempo material on Waiting for That One Clear Moment
. There’s less folksy stuff here, Dybdahl leaning towards soft, jazzy blues compositions instead. The setting is sunnier too, undoubtedly due to the contributors' and the overall Los Angeles vibe. Probably the most representative cuts here are the opening trio: the title track, ‘Can I Have it All’ and ‘Look at What We’ve Done’. The latter is the biggest highlight for me as it shares best that lovely, cozy sound we can always expect from Thomas. Plus, his gentle croon is top-notch, much like those guitar licks and background vocals. Also, ‘Can I Have it All’ brings in jazzy beats with slide guitar and faint piano leads on top. Halfway, they raise the volume for a beautiful chorus, only to suddenly drop it for a smooth, lounge instrumental break. I love how the multiple layers are so carefully intertwined yet the tunes are so breezy. On ‘All These Things’, the bass clearly drives the tune, its groove being slick and addictive. Thomas whispers throughout above bluesy chords, sounding charming all the way.
Reaching the middle stretch of the record, we're greeted by a couple of gorgeous ballads, among his finest to date. The subdued rhythm of ‘The Longest Night’ is accompanied by sparse melodies again revolving around the bass and piano interplay. The two create such an elegant and romantic scene and Thomas’ lower pitched voice does its magic as usual. On the contrast, ‘What You Came For’ is a steady, moodier number closer in sound to his earlier records, having a wonderful chorus. As there are fewer verses sung here, he leaves enough room for everyone to do their own thing. Meanwhile, ‘When I Go’ owes more to Americana influences, being a sweet duet with Lera Lynn. The lap steel guitar is the essential component in creating a warm, pastoral setting. The man always incorporated the best of that genre in his music. On the other hand, ‘Lifeline’ is the last dance before All These Things
closes with two quiet ditties. Once more the George Michael in Dybdahl reveals himself, this time using a more tame, R’n’B inspired groove akin to the material that precedes it. It also gives the LP some energy the latter half needs.
In the end, All These Things
might not be Thomas Dybdahl’s crowning achievement, but it comes really close. While other LPs had a larger spectrum of sounds and tempos, this one is arguably the most cohesive and balanced effort. The smooth, elegant atmosphere the man created is delightful and his intimate voice is magnificent as always. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the music.