Anthony & The Johnson's - I Am A Bird Now

When Anthony sings "Hope there's someone who will take care of me. When I die will I go" it's like witnessing an Angel clipped and falling down to earth. Emotions run wild as this pure soul voice runs free over a plaintive piano. There's more passion running through this record than a thousand gospel choirs. The fact isn't unnoticed when he reaches the end of the song he seems to summon the spirits of the great's and channel them through his own body.

Everything about Anthony is ambiguous. An alien child fallen to earth like Oscar Wilde,  at the same time vocally he moves and caresses the notes that veer between that of an 80 year of man of the blues through to an 18 year old chanteuse. "I Am A Bird Now" is a compelling listen from start to finish, hypnotizing the listener with a powerful beguiling voice. On "For Today I Am A Boy" he questions and probes his own sexual ambiguity. "One day i'll grow up and be a beautiful woman" he croons and indeed realizes. Anthony has been singing for years as a drag queen in cabaret bars across New York prior to becoming a recording artist in his own right.

The presence of guests Boy George, Rufus Wainwright, Devandra Barnhart and Lou Reed doesn't overshadow from Anthony on their respective tracks. On "You Are My Sister" it's more a meeting of minds between an artists and his hero. When Anthony was growing up it was Culture Club's first record "Colour By Numbers" that made him feel that "this is what people like us do - we sing". On "Fistfull Of Love" the tempo quickens slightly on a burning soul record complete with a mournful brass refrain. Even on "Spiralling" when his performance art past comes to the fore with a spoken word dialogue not dissimilar to to Leigh Bowery's "Ich Bin Kunst", the album still doesn't lose momentum.

"I Am A Bird Now" is an album full of copious reference points, but combined they make a unique body of work that enthrals and draws the listener in with each and every listen. A real contender for album of the year.

Alex McCann

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