“The singers I look up to, like Marvin Gaye and Karen Carpenter, have an ease and beauty in how they sing. The point of singing is to deliver a message. If you sing with grace, your story will sound easy.” Mozez.
Long before Sam Smith and Jess Glynne got their start as collaborators with the likes of Disclosure and Rudimental, Jamaican soul singer Mozez was helping influential soothing club duo Zero 7 to tell their story with an unhurried simplicity.
Across two albums at the turn of the ‘00s, it was Mozez’s graceful voice that shone alongside the then-unknown Sia and Sophie Barker in Zero 7’s compelling comedown music. Blessed with a sky scraping voice, while knowing when to keep his vocals unadorned, you’d have bet on Mozez becoming as successful as Sia, especially when his debut solo album, 2006’s haunting So Still, won rave reviews. Since then, other than touring as the singer for long-time friend Nightmares On Wax, Mozez has been silent.
Until now. Nine years on, and the perfectionist singer/writer/producer is ready to emerge with Wings, an album that’s definitely worth waiting for. If its lyrics tell of a man at the crossroads, unsure which path to take in life, there’s a certainty to the music across its lush, beautiful landscape. Not a note is wasted, and you won’t hear 12 songs that are better sung all year. Wings’ title track and first single has already garnered praise from Dermot O’Leary at Radio 2 and 6 Music’s Tom Robinson, with the video notching over a million Youtube hits. Wings opens the album, and what follows are rich, varied textures that encompass the absurdly catchy A Place Called Home and Hannah, the dark drama of Planets, Run River’s choppy funk, unsettling Brian Eno ambience on Philia and Broken Toy’s multi-coloured psychedelia.
What unites the songs is that, for all the troubles about love, money and friendship within, there’s a strong message of hope throughout. “The point of the record is optimism,” nods Mozez. “There’s so much frustration and trouble in society, but the future is what we as humanity make of it. We’re in a state of metamorphosis, and my view is we can have a grand future if we can come to a collective consciousness.”
The Absolute, the oldest song on Wings, it highlights Mozez’s ability to pare his music back to its essentials, both in its spare piano-driven beauty and his wise counselling. “I planned that song a lot,” he explains. “It means a lot to me, and it’s exactly what I’d wanted in my head. The trick of songwriting is to convey a message as simply as possible. The Absolute has a lot of words, but there used to be a lot more. That song has been a touchstone for the record for the past six years.”
Perhaps Wings’ lyrically simplest song is Coloured Dreams, a retelling of The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun complete with a well-placed “La-la-la”. Mozez chuckles as he explains its genesis, insisting: “La-la-la is the first part of music. That’s what music was initially before we learned how to use words.” The thoughtful messages in Wings can partly be attributed to Mozez’s upbringing. He began questioning his faith as a child, moving to London to study theology before signing to a small indie label where he met Zero 7.
On moving to London, Osmond Wright slowly became Mozez as his real name “dissatisfied” the singer. Mozez is now ready to return to the spotlight, vowing that he’s already begun writing songs for another record “which shouldn’t take nine years”.
In the meantime, there’s the sumptuous Wings, which ends with the euphoric soul of Mirror Mirror. The album’s quickest song to write, its chorus of “Who is the greatest of us all?” points to future great leaders and cultural figures yet to come. “Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye… they were great, but the greatest of them all isn’t here yet, because life goes on and greater people come.” That’s for the future. For now, Wings is as good as it gets.
Written by John Earle