Artfully chronicling the ever-shifting sands in both his personal life and America’s sociopolitical landscape, singer/songwriter Nick Binkley’s epic fourth album Stardust Angels Ghosts covers an expansive array of hard-hitting, emotional topics via a colorful, stylistically eclectic mix that includes tender romantic ballads, hard-edged rockers, infectious lighthearted pop, gritty Americana and lilting reggae in collaboration with the late Jamaican legend “Toots” Hibbert of the Grammy-winning band Toots and the Maytals.
The 11 track (12 if you count the “ghost track,” a second version of “Brown-Eyed Angel”) collection is set for release May 19. Its lead single “Cherry,” an old-school love song recalling the charming spirit of a Brill Building pop confection, was released April 21. The song serves as a playful and breezy romantic oasis from the deeply thought-provoking, spiritual and existential themes that are the core of Stardusts Angels Ghosts.
Binkley is releasing the project eight years after his critically acclaimed 100 Parts of Heart, which celebrated and eulogized the life of his late wife and reflected on the long healing process, its shadowy movement from darkness and despair to glimpses of light. The emotional core of the new album is the three personal yet universal, wildly romantic and gratitude-filled “Sam Songs” - “Brown Eyed Angel,” “Black on White” and “J’can Girl” - which collectively show a heart that’s healed, healthy and loving once again at a joyous full throttle. But reflecting on his being the proverbial Phoenix rising from the flames of loss and despair via the angel in his life is just part of the multi-faceted magic on the album.
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“The album feels like the completing of a circle and closing of a powerful chapter in my life, reflecting a time where I’ve been contemplating the shifting sands in my own life and the rapid changes going on in our country and the world,” says Binkley, whose song “100 Parts of Heart” song rose to #4 on the Top 50 Country Charts of the Roots Music Report in 2014. “The songs reflect spiritual changes and romantic re-awakening in my own life after the passing of my first wife while also tapping into the years dominated by Trump, the pandemic and the dangerous political polarization.
“Metaphorically,” the singer adds, “I can tie the theme back to ‘Novi Mir,’ a political activist song I wrote and recorded with Russian pop star Vyacheslav Malezhik 25 years ago, whose title translates to ‘New Peace’ or ‘New World.’ Considering all that is happening in our tattered relations with Russia now, the song appears like a ghost of all that could have been. I am re-releasing it as a streaming single, along with a new, remastered video which includes rehearsal footage of the two of us from 26 years ago.”
On May 14, Binkley performed the songs from Stardust Angels Ghosts with a 14-piece Ensemble at an exclusive, invitation only pre-release event at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach (San Diego County), CA. They played two full sets, one with a full audience and one without, and the performances were filmed for future promotional streaming opportunities.
The cover imagery of Stardust Angels Ghosts by San Diego based artist Rion Schmid is an adventurous revelation. It depicts a vibrant, mystical, visually provocative and thematically illustrative depiction of a troubadour moving ghost-like through a dreamy, impressionistic barren desert landscape into a bright, colorful urban cityscape crackling with fiery energy. (In a more literal sense, when he was once in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, Binkley spent days at a time in the desert landscapes of the Sahara). The concept so perfectly aligns with the H.G. Wells classic 1897 novel “The Invisible Man” that Schmid used the unique font that was on the cover of the original book for the title of the album.
Looking over his fascinating multi-faceted life careers in and outside of music, Binkley resonates with the “invisible man” idea in a variety of very personal ways. “The troubadour in me is like a ‘ghost in my own lost and found’ visiting in song many different realms in my lifetime,” he says. “When I look back on my life in the high-rise corporate suites of New York, London and LA and the music that life inspired, and being so involved in the production of ‘Free To Rock,’ I feel like a visitor for sure, but a participating visitor, passing through all these worlds, ghost and angel, surreal and real.”
Stardust Angels Ghosts was produced by Nick Binkley with co-production credits shared by Valery Saifudinov, Steve Dudas and Mark Hart. “Black on White” and “J’can Girl” were arranged and produced by Toots Hibbert who also played drums, keys and guitar on the tracks, and recorded by Nigel Burrell at The Reggae Center, Kingston, Jamaica. The main tracks were recorded by Saifudinov at Flight #19 Studios in San Diego, with remote recording of instrumental and vocal tracks by Steve Dudas, Mark Hart and Clinton Davis. The main band includes Binkley on lead vocals and acoustic guitars; Dudas on lead electric guitars; Hart on backup vocals, keyboards, Hammond B-3 organ, and pedal steel and slide guitars; Richard Sellers on drums and percussion; and Mike Kennedy on bass