The “X” in the title of Paul Hardcastle’s latest album is not the letter “X”, rather the roman numeral for 10, indicating that this is the tenth release in his latest series of musical projects. The last one was imaginatively called ‘Hardcastle IX’. The names though seem irrelevant as the music offered across this 12 tracker is much the same – classic Paul Hardcastle… moody, atmospheric, intriguing, chill-out sounds that bear all the keyboardist’s signature rhythms and flourishes. Apart from the massive hit ‘19’, one of Paul’s best loved items is ‘Rainforest’, so for this ‘X’, think that one but with extra garnishes here and there.
I guess the biggest surprise on ‘X’ is that the album features a cover and a rather surprising choice at that – a version of the Charlie Chaplin-penned tune ‘Smile’. Helping Mr H deliver on this almost MOR meander round a familiar melody is his son, Paul Hardcastle Jr whose mellifluous sax takes the lead. The younger Paul is also on hand on ‘Slow Jam’ which is just that – a proper late night groove that builds towards the end.
Though not officially credited we’re guessing that the keyboardist’s daughter, Maxine, is on hand on some the tracks – cooing sweetly on things like ‘Angelic Chimes’ and the breathy ‘Come To Me’. Relaxed and soporific, it’s a shoe-in for Balearic chill-out bars as is ‘Why Do We Dream’, essentially that repeated question over a haunting soundscape. Again we’re guessing that Maxine H is the female voice, but we’re in the dark as to the other voices who all help create the trance like state.
Like we said, that tune and the whole album is classic Paul Hardcastle. He doggedly stays true to his own art and why should he change it? He has plenty of followers who will relish the familiarly, but those who don’t “get” him, will stay “ungot”!