Essential Forever – Hollywood Royalty (Earth Libraries)

Essential Forever – Hollywood Royalty (Earth Libraries)

Writing and performing in character as Essential Forever, a forgotten crooner from pop radio’s golden era, Jungle Green’s Al Heaney celebrates the sound of the era with lushly orchestrated first track Hollywood Royalty. 

Al Heaney of Essential Forever by Emma CollinsArtist: Essential Forever
Track: Hollywood Royalty
Label: Earth Libraries
Released: 5 February 2021
Find it: Bandcamp | Spotify

Douglas Coupland called it legislated nostalgia – to force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess – and on the new track Hollywood Royalty from Essential Forever that idea is crafted into musical form as we’re beckoned back to the ’60s as if this new record was merely something we’d overlooked. Behind the moniker is Al Heaney (Jungle Green) and the project sees him take on the character of a forgotten crooner from a decade we (well, certainly I) have no direct experience of but feel we know through steady pop culture immersion.

Taking inspiration from his love of crate-digging for ‘essential hits’ collections by relatively unknown artists Heaney filled the studio with a mini-orchestra of multi-instrumentalists and took a wall of sound approach. It makes for a track which is both woozily romantic, and intricately detailed, and sounds very much like the era from which it definitely doesn’t come. The PR for the album from which this first single is lifted – There’s A Lot Still To Say About Essential Forever – sums it up saying it, “spins like a pop opera anthology from an undiscovered AM era crooner dug out of the dustiest crate in the shop.”

So with Hollywood Royalty we’re dropped straight back through time to the lushly orchestrated melody-driven pop, with the protagonist of the song centred but here with softer emotions. It’s all ‘skyscraping chords, thunderous piano, layered percussion, and tight falsetto harmonies’ – absolutely classic ’60s pop crafted with expert musicianship and a whole lot of love.

‘Far away in your dream how could you ever be mine? / How could you ever be my love…’

About the project Heaney said, “I wanted to write an album from the perspective of this forgotten crooner, the most prolific artist that no one has ever heard of. But at the same time I wanted to skew the hyper-masculinity and the hubris of love songs fromI wanted to write songs that can help people fall in love a hundred times over.”

It’s an intriguing proposition to take such an established and well-explored sound and pay homage while bringing the songwriting into the modern era. Hollywood Royalty feels at once as if it’s a track you’ve know forever, shimmering with old school glamour and romance, details picked out with intricate instrumentation, and something which you’re softly awakening to for the first time. Whether this concept plays out over an entire album remains to be heard, but Hollywood Royalty is certainly a compelling introduction.

Hollywood Royalty by Essential Forever is out digitally now via Earth Libraries, with album There’s Still A Lot To Say About Essential Forever set for release in April.

Find Essential Forever: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify | Bandcamp
Image: Emma Collins

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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