Reviews Zone

Rag ’n’ Bone Man: Human (Columbia Records) February 10th


5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


Beautiful, sublime and coming from deep within British newcomer Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s soul; each of the 19 tracks on his stonking debut album, scores a direct hit to the chest and  grabs you from start to finish.

I’m gonna make a bold statement here, one I do not make lightly: “This is quite possibly the best album I’ve heard in the past decade….” It’s very rare that I listen to an album the first time without being tempted to reach for the “skip” button. Absolutely no padding here, and that is saying something for an album with this many tracks (Deluxe version). There are a dozen cuts on the regular CD.

His dues have been paid in getting to this point in time – no fast-track TV ‘talent show’ pass for Rory. It’s been hard graft as a blues singer at open mike nights, joining a hip hop and rap crew in Brighton and staying on the underground down-low for some years with the release of small budget recordings.

Pointless to dwell on the opening track “Human”, after the extensive airplay it has had, the number of times it has been used as a backdrop to TV stuff and the number one chart spots it has grabbed around the world, you would have had to have been away on business on Mars to have missed it.

Choosing the first single from this album must have been one hell of a challenge, as there are so many red hot cuts here. Track two, “Innocent Man” has a horn arrangement to die for, punching through in support of Rory’s deep, rich vocal.

An ‘A Team’ of production collaborators who include Jonny Coffer, with an impressive roster of production credits for Emeli Sandé, All Saints and Beyonce. Two Inch Punch who has worked on tracks for Sam Smith,  Damon Albarn, Ella Eyre and Brian Eno, and London-based producer Mark Crew who is known for his work with Bastille and with whom Rory delivered the 2014 “Wolves” and 2015 “Disfigured” EPs.

A formidable team backing up Rory’s stunning vocal ability. The fact that there are a number of distinctive producers bringing to the table their own ‘sound’ and way of doing things, has in now way  derailed the R n B Man’s individual style, and more importantly his unique vocal sound. No matter who came to the party, this is very much a Rag’n’Bone Man album.

Sounding like a track that CeeLo Green or Seal would have killed for, to have had on one of their albums, “Skin” is an anthem that will be a favourite when the man performs live on the current European tour. Lifting and dropping like a roller-coaster, “Skin” was made for the live arena.

Tales of break-up, regret and premature death emanate from this album, and when aligned with a deep gospel influence, each track has a story to tell. Rory is a born story teller. “Bitter End” takes us through the dissection of a break-up and the aftermath of regret. Rory’s lyrics are powerful and make an emotional connection, even before he opens his mouth in that huge bearded, tattooed frame of his. There’s a clue as to where his heart is at musically, when you spot the words BLUES and the FUNK inked across his knuckles.

“Grace” is a heartfelt track of remorse, with lyrics like: “At the death of every darkness, there’s a morning”, and: “I wonder why we give up on love, when it’s always within reach,” which will surely resonate with many listeners. “Odetta” is a smooth soulful track, and the superb harmonies give this cut a solid foundation while the lead vocal entices you in.

A lilting piano track and tasty horn part opens “Ego”, a number that taps into his past as an MC. Rory’s deep rasping vocal cuts right through on this track, and add in the horns, one could almost be transported to a smoky, blues or jazz club. “Your Way Or The Rope” sits on BIG backing vocals and a laid back base track. Light and shade saturates this album, as beautifully demonstrated by “Love You Any Less”.  Rory commands centre stage while a piano rides along at a gentle pace.

“As You Are”, opens with the sound of a crackling vinyl record. “Die Easy” is a stripped back a cappella track, Rory’s solitary vocal having nowhere to hide. Not a problem for a talent as gargantuan as we have here. This track is nectar for your aural senses; pure gospel, we are now in the Deep South, and I don’t mean Hove! On the journey through this outstanding piece of work that is obviously coming direct from Rory Graham’s soul, it is blatantly clear that here is an artist being himself without any trend chasing or directives from above. It sometimes sounds almost familiar; like some classic album that I have been listening to for years.

No surprise then, that Rag’n’Bone Man is receiving such wide critical acclaim and has already picked up a Brit Award for ‘Critics’ Choice’, even before this album was released, and he is a deserving nominee for a second 2017 Brit – for “British Breakthrough”.

Many who hear this album  will be ticking off the nods to his influences. But mark my words; it will not be too long before Mr Graham will come to mind as the influence to many other artists! Awarding him six stars here is not possible, but if it were………


By Ian Shipley


EDITOR’S NOTE: Music Republic Magazine predict multi-Platinum sales for this album and more number one singles lifted from it. US success is imminent, we say. I was lucky enough to spot Rory’s talents some years ago, and first tipped him for big things about five or so years ago in my own blues column in a magazine. Then he did his first major interview with me for the same International magazine for a double page spread, and that too tipped him for huge success. This was all before he was signed to a major label. So it comes as no big surprise that he is doing so well and we will continue to cover his adventures and support him and his music.  He will be filling huge arenas within two years!


1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’


Follow us for all the latest news!

This function has been disabled for Music Republic Magazine.