In 1975 CBS released “Kid in a Big World”, the debut LP by a golden-voiced young piano man called John Howard. But somehow, between glam and pub rock, this early masterpiece fell through the gaps. The world may have been ready for Bowie flirting with androgyny, but not quite ready yet for an out gay pop star.
Forty years on, Canterbury-based/Vienna-born pop writer and musician Robert Rotifer enticed this living singer-songwriter legend back to England from his Spanish exile to work on the collaborative project John Howard & The Night Mail. Apart from Howard himself on vocals and piano and Rotifer on guitar the band features Andy Lewis (Paul Weller's bassist, DJ and Acid Jazz regular) on bass and mellotron and Ian Button(Papernut Cambridge, ex-Death in Vegas, ex-Thrashing Doves) on drums.
Apart from the Roddy Frame cover “Small World” (“Great! Brilliant! I'm flattered,“ says Frame) Lewis, Button and Rotifer are sharing all the writing credits with John Howard.
“Walking tall, intact and smiling / An independent soul, nobody's slave,” is how the 62-year-old with the deceptively youthful voice portrays himself on “Intact & Smiling”, the 60s soul flavoured lead single he co-wrote with Lewis. And as his fingers touch the keys you can sense the electricity of finally playing together with a full band in the studio again after all those yours.
It's nothing less than the joyful rebirth of an almost forgotten hero of British pop history.