Exactly 10 years ago this week, a 21-year-old singer from Wexford via Hackney released his debut album. He quickly became a rising star with his invigorating blend of R&B and reggae fusion, a little like a cross between a slick and urbane UB40 and more international version of Damien Dempsey – although at the time he was incorrectly likened to a male Any Winehouse, which tells you a lot about the music industry.
Michael Stafford aka Maverick Sabre released two moderately successful albums on Universal subsidiary Mercury before pursuing an independent route. Don’t Forget to Look Up comes aptly named after the runaway success of Don’t Look Up. But rather than a dystopian disaster comedy, Stafford’s fourth album is a personal meditation on the age-old theme of love.
Opening with Falling, Stafford places front and centre his unique selling point: an excellent voice that soars like a R&B superstar but can also revert back to his own accent, which hovers somewhere over the Irish Sea, for confessional raps.
Don’t Forget to Look Up is for the most part very good, though sometimes it strays down some rather dull dead-ends. Can’t Be Wrong over-eggs the pudding with a syrupy soup of bloated guitars that sounds like an outtake from a Later with Jools Holland rehearsal.
Still, cuts such as Time Away are fantastic pop songs, displaying a sophisticated level of musical versatility that repeatedly comes up trumps thanks to Stafford’s remarkable voice..