When it comes to British singer/songwriter John Howard, it’s easy to wonder what might have been. His 1975 debut album “Kid in a Big World” was heralded as a masterpiece of piano-driven pop in the vein of countryman Elton John — but after early sales were strong, the record somehow fell through the cracks. It would take more than 25 years for the public to “rediscover” Howard via a reissue of “Kid” and subsequent releases of songs he recorded but never released in the late 1970s.
Sparked by the renewed interest, Howard put out an album of new material in 2005. “As I Was Saying” wasn’t a big seller, but it showed that Howard still had his chops. That fact is underscored with the self-titled release of collaborative project John Howard & The Night Mail. Lured back to England to record the album from self-imposed exile in Spain, the 62-year-old Howard picks up right where he left off on this 11-track gem of a record.
Howard lures listeners in with “Before” and holds you in his thrall with dynamite story-songs like “In the Light of Fires Burning,” “London’s After-Work Drinking Culture,” “Small World,” “Control Freak,” “Safety in Numbers” and “Tip of Your Shoe.” We’ll never know how great Howard could have been in his prime, but happily he’s still got plenty of time to craft more stellar albums like this one. (Jeffrey Sisk)