Michael Rattray – ‘Human Life’
I know Michael Rattray a little. A rare, intimate live appearance last year brought a tear to my eye whilst our occasional communication has shown him to be a gentle man with a kind and generous soul. He also exudes both creative talent and wit in abundant, generous measures. But, this artistic flair and admirable disposition hide – as is often the case with a rare talent – a darker side, a more troubled man filled with personal foibles and a heavy soul. This side of Michael’s persona is opened up and exposed at its fullest in his new album Human Life.
Whilst Human Life reveals Michael’s inner turmoil, unveiling his personal demons to the listener, it’s done with such honesty and beauty that its affect is both gut wrenching and uplifting. The former as you can feel his heart desperate for love, his mind searching for answers and his soul suffering in his quest for both. Yet the album is laced with hope, with heavy doses of positivity despite life’s constant pressure clearly weighing heavy on his shoulders. In ‘Got This Far’ and ‘Here Comes The Silence’ it’s not just the message that offers hope and positivity, the music matches the mood too with Lightning Seeds slices of pop-perfection.
“This world was meant for me with all its faults and charms… They say it’s not the destination it’s the ride / so turn off your virtual world there’s a beautiful one right outside”– ‘Here Comes The Silence’
Listening to such hopeful prose lifts the heart as it lets you know that despite the battle, there is an optimism and belief that any doubts and worries will disappear. Most of all, love regularly rears its longed for but yet unattained head, but as always there is hope, and with the beautifully poignant homage to Nick Drake the message sounds perfectly autobiographical, “He doesn’t love no-one it’s tragic / he loves melody and magic” – ‘The Ghost of Nick Drake’. However, with music carrying such emotion, it is when the desolation hits you hardest that Human Life has the biggest impact – it’s when the album is at its most moving and sentimental and when it’s at its best.
Human Life is bookended with perfect piteous and melancholic impact. In the wonderfully emotionally-drenched opener Michael gets straight to the nub, “Oh universe, what to do with this brain / I don’t wanna know the sunshine from the rain again… Show me somewhere that I can belong.” ‘New Shoots’, Getting Up’ and in particular ‘Porcelain’ are album highlights, all sung with incredibly passionate fragility and backed by perfect, simple guitar. These songs are far more than sad ballads, as well as hitting the senses hard they are brilliantly melodic and impeccably performed.
If there is one over-riding theme to be taken away from Human Life it’s Michael’s despairing need yet ever-hopeful search for love. Closing track ‘Life Without Love’ is a stunning and intense finale, gone is the perfectly beautiful tone, in its place is more pain, more hurt, more despair…
“I’ve spent the best years of this life / just trying to find some peace of mind/ for all this trouble all this time / I need a reason why”
“Oh Lord send me down some hope / send it down from above / and Lord your greatest crime of all / is life without love”
Human Life is a deep voyage into one man’s inner turmoil and despair. It’s sensitive, affecting, and amongst the search for love and reassurance shines brightly a magnificently ethereal album full of hope.
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 71/2/10
Human Life, so breakable, so unstable and at times the mental and physical can be held in uncertain terms, so much so to talk of the condition, to place the frailty out in the open can make people turn away through embarrassment, mainly as they struggle to understand why anyone would want to push the human thought that far, or because they feel threatened by someone reaching out to them. Whatever the reason, Michael Rattray captures the emotion of tender Humanity wonderfully in Human Life.
It is possible to think of Humanity as a dwindling, almost extinct trait in many, it seems to go hand in hand with economic slowdowns or Depressions, the less someone has the more they hide in their shell and refuse to put their head above the sandbags, they refuse to see the carnage out in no man’s land. For Michael Rattray there is no choice, what he exposes through Human Lifeis the need to understand what happens to you then will inevitably happen to the next person, the dominoes will continue to fall uninterrupted and with heavy heart.
Through each delicately performed note, the listener is able to perceive something understandable and right about Michael Rattray. This is not a musician who hides behind words, who cowers in the face of being accused of wearing his heart on his sleeve for the images he provokes and the thoughts of the human condition he makes the listener pay attention too. When you believe in the indomitable human spirit, the belief that separates us from the uncaring, selfish and heartless, then how can you but not wear your heart on the sleeve as well as the rest of the shirt also.
With tracks such as the superb The Ghost of Nick Drake, the emptiness of Life Without Love,Here Comes the Silence and a very classy cover of the Suzanne Vega song The Queen and The Soldier, Michael Rattray shows the callous and indifferent that to be able to pour your feelings out, to reel at times but come out fighting is not a sign of weakness but one of solid strength.
Human Life may be a fragile, almost precarious at times but it is precious and like its name sake on the album should be valued and handled with great care.
Ian D. Hall
Michael Rattray - Human Life
An artist and songwriter from Perth, Scotland, the songs on Rattray’s album were written during a particularly dark patch during which, suffering from both depression and ME, he was forced to move back in with his parents. This explains the often downbeat nature of the lyrics (though not necessarily the melodies), although (as Got This Far and I’m Still Breathing show), there’s also a strong streak of optimism, The fact that it was recorded and engineered over a five year period at, I would assume, a variety of different studios would account for the unevenness of the sound quality and production. That, however, shouldn’t deter you from checking it out.
As a writer, he can turn his hand to various genres, but here he’s very much in a folk mind, the songs either sparse, stripped down affairs or benefitting from the contributions of local musicians on cello, violin, accordion, double bass and flute. The contemplative stately Lennoneque piano ballad title track kicks things off before he slides into the frisky, summery jaunt of The Ghost of Nick Drake, a rather more playful and sunny lyric than the title might suggest. Big Black Dog, a number about his depression, offers a bluesier, rockier side while a choppily shuffling Here Comes The Silence fuses Gerry Rafferty, George Harrison, Ticking Boxes is a violin accompanied waltz with Higher Ground bringing a country flavor with its keening pedal steel, twangy guitar and train-wheels rhythms.
Although there’s times when you suspect his health meant the voice was not as strong as it might have been, he’s never less than engagingly listenable and, on something like the dreamy acoustic Getting Up, often affecting, while an image like ‘under my skin there’s porcelain’ bears testament to his skill as a lyricist.
He saves the best to last, however, with the near seven minute Life Without Love, a (non-denominational) prayer for help, peace of mind, a reason why and love, strings gradually enfolding the piano and a full gospel choir carrying it to a swelling climax. Choose life.
Mike Davies, February 2014
Written and recorded mostly during a difficult period of personal adversity, Michael Rattray often thought his new album "Human Life" would never see the light of day. Thankfully, for us, it will be released on 2nd Dec 2013.
His heartfelt, natural brand of acoustic folk pop is at times reminiscent of artists such as Elliot Smith and Snow Patrol; no two songs are the same, though, a fact that showcases his originality and genre aware songwriting abilities.
The production on the album is intelligent and natural. The songs are flawlessly expressed, laden with gorgeous melody, honesty and profound insight.
Given the record’s difficult birth surroundings and elongated recording process “Human Life” is ironically inspirational, uplifting, encouraging and moving.
Rattray is not afraid to deal with real issues in his work, and will not hold back his life experiences from his listeners.
Expressing frailties none of us are excluded from there are universal themes here any person can relate to, the clue is in the album’s title.
The final track closes poignantly with a communal summing up of its entire theme. To understand what this means demands that you give it a listen from start to finish.
Rattray’s record "Human Life" is highly recommended, as are all his past musical endeavours. Don’t just discover his music either, this prolific creative is also a visual artist with numerous exhibitions across the UK under his belt".
Tom Lohrmann Music
Michael Rattray’s Album ‘Human Life’
Yasmin Ali December 10, 2013
It’s nice to have some home-grown talent, and Perth’s Michael Rattray does not disappoint fellow Scots with his recently released début album. Human Life is a collection of easy-going acoustic and electro-acoustic guitar folk melodies. Stylistically confident, Rattray is an experienced songwriter in his element, having also composed for other artists in the past.
The album starts strong, with the eponymous opener Human Life, a well-constructed pop song with a relaxed self-assurance to carry the album’s title track.The Ghost of Nick Drake, a previous single release, follows with the same level of confidence and flow. There are a couple of songs which rely heavily on lyrical and chord repetition, for example, New Shoots has a chorus with just one repeating line, but with thirteen tracks on the album there is plenty of variation in song structure and composition across the tracklist.
Likewise, some tracks are melancholy, like the ballad Getting Up, which is full of minor chords and lyrics tinged with wistfulness. Likewise, Ticking Boxes has a backing line of violins to reflect its sad undertones. These contrast with upbeat, up-tempo pop tracks Here Comes The Silence and Got This Far.
Rattray’s voice is difficult to place as his singing generally does not betray his accent, but the lovely track Porcelain reveals a pleasant lilt in his song. Most of the tracks are carefully timed three-minute pop songs (or thereabouts), with the exception of the final track, Life Without Love, that is over six and a half minutes long and plays out with gospel backing vocals to draw the album to a majestic close.
Rattray is also a practising visual artist, taking part in solo and group exhibitions since 1998. He penned not only the songs, but also the associated artwork for his album, which itself has a distinctive, abstract style. He has opened and played alongside artists such as Belle and Sebastian, Idlewild, The Vaselines and Edwyn Collins. It won’t be long before Rattray headlines the festival circuit himself.
On Monday, April 10, the independent singer songwriter Michael Rattray will release his latest studio endeavor, an eclectic EP entitled ‘Silent Battles.’ The new five track collection offers a compelling insight into Rattray’s music and how its evolved since ‘Human Life,’ his latest record which was lauded as “a magnificently ethereal album full of hope.”
‘Silent Battles’ is an elegant combination of original and cover music, opening with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Hole’s ‘Malibu.’ Rattray’s signature sound is wrapped in waterfalls of symphonic string sections, atmospheric reverb, and infectiously lovely choruses and hooks. From bright tunes like ‘Little Threads’ perfect for your spring playlist, to introspective ballads like ‘One Million Mangoes,’ the EP is chock-full of diverse, memorable soundscapes.
Rattray’s creative repertoire as an artist is always expanding through unique avenues. He has performed with Belle and Sebastian, Idlewild, The Vaselines, and Edwyn Collins, taken the stage at Scotland’s iconic ‘T in the Park’ music festival, and he toured the UK as support for Sam Brown, with whom he worked with on his‘Smile At Who You Need To.’ LP.
Rattray is also an exhibiting visual artist.
Brett David Stewart
Michael Rattray, Silent Battles. E.P. Review.
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Not every battle leaves scars on the outside, the visible marks of having been on the wrong side of the swords cutting edge, the evidence of having gone to war with life and only realising at towards the bitter end that life has an experienced ally in Time and neither of them give any quarter or sympathy as they open your skin with the thick blade and let the scar tissue form.
The Silent Battles, the ones that cut the skin from underneath, those are the ones in which the hero stands tall because nobody knows that you have been striving to deflect the swords, the arrows and the bullets; nobody sees the scars forming so they just always assume that you are doing well, that the battle has not yet found you.
Michael Rattray’s Silent Battles E.P. is one that on the surface shows no signs of life having ever taken a put shot at this fantastic musician, however dig deeper, find the empathy needed to hear beyond the surface and the skin and the beauty of the music bleeds through in time with the lyrical observations like expensive red wine being poured slowly from the open neck and into the half full glass beneath. It is a glass that has been cut and adorned with care, the flow steady and to the point and in the end is one that you cannot but help raise in salute to the master behind the thought.
In the five tracks, Malibu, Little Threads, Worry, Peace of Mind and One Million Mangos, Michael Rattray delivers a set of songs that are not only dripping in the cool whimsy but also have the hidden charm of absolute expression, the imagery, especially on Worry and One Million Mangos is exquisite. They find a way to conjure up sentiment, of personal attachment to the plight of the musician that can only in the end change your outlook on such matters to which some might find mundane, yet are deep down more important; the scars on the inside hurt far more than those in which the eyes can see.
A very beautiful E.P., Silent Battles is one we can all identify with.
Ian D. Hall