We Were Born To Glory
Pop Mattersby: Imran Khan
Canada’s Royal Wood, who in these last ten years has made a name for himself in cabaret pop, switches gears on his sixth release for a more rock-oriented effort. Gone are the ragtime flourishes that were once his signature. Opting for a more direct approach, Wood focuses more on grooves than he does atmosphere, placing emphasis on the rhythm section and dabbling a bit more with drum loops and samples. Still present (and always the centerpiece) is his magnificent croon, delivered with restraint and yet rich enough to give each of these tunes a dusky shading. Wood’s previous albums were works that featured primarily twilit numbers, with songs of emotional longing and heartache. Wood shifts his worldview into the sunlight and trades in his languorous lamentations for an increase in bpms. The lean, cool beats of “Not Giving Up” sparkle with his usual instrumentation of piano and guitar, the chorus wallpapered with a small but sinewy string-section and the sound of a gong ringing through the mix. “I Want Your Love” features the low buzz of electric guitar and some soft touches of synth-pop to round out the edges; it’s a bolder move away from his noir-lush jazz-pop that put him on the radar of Toronto’s music scene a decade back. If you still pine for the late-night lugubrious pop of his previous days, you’ll find them in “Will We Ever Learn” and “I’ll Be Gone”, both numbers featuring a caramel-wrap of orchestral arrangements that lavishes upon the singer’s affecting vocals rather sweetly and thick. No matter what musical element he is in, Royal Wood imparts his songwriting with the same qualities evocative of his very name: lustre and class.
The Spill Magazineby: Bethany Geddes
Full of class, charm and a gentleman’s demeanour, Royal Wood’s We Were Born to Glory holds an old time vibe that showcases the beautiful quality of piano-based music and the simple pleasure of listening to a pure, untouched vocal performance. A more mature Pop sound, Royal Wood brings a sense of wisdom and a well-executed musical compilation that suggests he is not only capable of playing his instrument(s), but also excels at combining melodies, harmonies and vocal lines into something of substance.
This album is jam-packed with musical gems. While already possessing a natural talent for the piano, Royal Wood continues to push his musical ability by adding layers of harmonies, rhythmic drumming and strings, such as heard in “I’ll be Gone.” And while this album does hold a more mature sound, it’s not to say that it doesn’t also hold a sense of youthful fun. For example, listening to “I Need You Now” you can hear the upbeat drums and the catchy hook of “Sha-la-la-la” that brings the image of a sunny day and a walk in the park. The emotional and musical variation in this album is amazing. When you listen to “Release Me,” a simple song with mostly vocals and piano, you hear the bare-bones of what it means to be a musician – they feel for a living, and you feel that in this song.
Based out of Toronto, Royal Wood’s We Were Born to Glory is an album that any individual who appreciates real talent should possess and devour.
Ottawa Citizenby: Sandra Sperounes
Forget what you thought you knew about Royal Wood.
The dapper man loses much of his characteristic sombreness and adds flourishes of hope and swagger to his latest album, We Were Born To Glory.
The snappy 13-song collection of pop-rock numbers feels brasher and brighter than any of his previous five efforts, including 2010’s The Waiting, which earned him a Juno nomination for Songwriter of the Year. Instead of just crooning about the concept of love, he sings about getting naked — on sexually charged ’70s-flavoured tunes such as “I Want Your Love” and “I Need You Now.” This transition seems to be paying off — We Were Born To Glory entered the Canadian charts at No. 23 in July, his highest debut to date.
Canadian Blog Spotby: Bob Mersereau
Sophisticated, smart, and catchy as all-get-out, Royal Wood has put together his most elegant album with We Were Born To Glory. Always adept at crafting a moving melody, Wood scores big with a bunch of high-end, hook-heavy and up-tempo gems at the start of the disc, before moving into some moving, and glossy ballads. Lead track The Thick Of It sets the tone, showcasing his sweet harmonies and joyous pop moves, including a Byrds guitar riff and even a whistled solo.The hits keep coming, with the urgent The Fire Did Go driving along with a desperate drum beat, Wood wondering how to get back to the spark at the start of a love. Chiming piano introduces Not Giving Up, Wood pledging to fight the good fight, “With every flame of my desire/I’m not giving up on you.” It’s all radiant, with the glory of Rufus Wainwright and the emotional depth of Ron Sexsmith. Our boy has the voice, too. Listen to string ballad Will We Ever Learn, bound to melt the hardest heart.
The MusicNerd Chronicles
On his last record, 2010’s The Waiting, Royal Wood was in a considerably more contemplative mood when compared to his newest masterpiece We Were Born To Glory. These 13 tracks boast a considerably more upbeat pop edge. Wood wears the suit well (no pun intended), indulging his love of pop, embellishing his songs with lush strings, piano, guitar and more. We Were Born To Glory will quite possibly be one of the catchiest, well thought-out pop records to emerge from Canada this year. Get on this train now.
National Postby: Jesse Kinos-Goodin
Every inch a king…. The result is We Were Born to Glory is (Royal’s) most upbeat and cohesive album to date.
The music industry is a business, with a focus on profitability, but the real test of a musician isn’t how many records they sell, or how well their songs do on radio. It’s whether they keep making good music. Wood’s discography, from his 2003 debut The Milkweed EP to We Were Born to Glory, is a brilliant musical reflection on the human experience.
PostCityby: Ron Johnson
Wood is on the launching pad, and with this new album, his career is going to take off. Royal Wood has arrived.
Globe and Mailby: Brad Wheeler
I’ve always thought of Royal Wood’s dapper and pretty balladry as something for the dolls, less for the guys. His new album feels different. There’s a bit more charge to his trim song-craft – one might even say punch. The Thick of It strums like a missing Traveling Wilbury; Hard Thing to Find is a similar thing, but bigger with horns. Soothing melodies are in a grouping with those of Ryan Adams and Ron Sexsmith. Lyrically, the Toronto crooner is thoughtfully motivated, concerned with doubt and renewal. The latter thrust prevails: We are all bound for glory, if we could just get out of our own way.
Exclaimby: Rachel Sanders
The always-elegant Royal Wood loosens his collar on his fourth album, a selection of songs that are more playful and pop-oriented than his previous releases. You’ll even catch the man whistling once in a while. Though the Toronto, ON-based singer-songwriter’s lyrical content is as starry-eyed as ever, catchy choruses abound this time around. Building on the sound he tried out on 2010′s The Waiting, the arrangements on his newest collection ― guitars, drums, piano and strings ― give Wood’s love songs a grandiosity worthy of their emotional tenor. Though the sweeping strings can be overpowering during some of the quieter moments, they offer an emotional boost to bolder numbers like “Not Giving Up” and “Always Will.” More enjoyable still is the sassy, new wave-inspired synthesizer in songs like “I Want Your Love” and “When The Sun Comes Up.” It’s a creative departure that fits Wood’s songwriting style and reveals a spark of the sharp wit behind the sophisticated suit and tie.
Lithium Magazineby: Andrew Horan
We Were Born To Glory shows that Wood has a knack for writing great pop songs. With its lilting keyboard, ‘When The Sun Comes Up’ almost sounds like it could be a Cars song. The upbeat ‘The Fire Did Go’ has a sing-a-long chorus that will get stuck in your head for days. While the album does spend much of its time in pop-rock territory, Wood closes it out with the almost orchestral ‘The Glory’, a gorgeous, uplifting song. Wood has crafted a sterling collection of songs that finds him comfortably straddling the line between balladeer and popsmith, with ease.
TheRecord.comby: Robert Reid
Toronto-based, multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Royal Wood has everything it takes to become a big-time recording star. Co-produced by Wood and Dean Drouillard, his third release We Were Born to Glory is more upbeat than his previous ballad-drenched The Waiting. It advances (Royal’s) surefire road to stardom with great songs, vocals, arrangements and production.
If you’re looking for well-crafted, smart pop songs with ample hooks you could do a hell of a lot worse than Peterborough-native Royal Wood. On July 10th Wood releases his highly-anticipated new full length We Were Born To Glory. The piano is Wood’s bread and butter. It blends perfectly with handclaps to produce a delicious groove on “I Want Your Love”. When combined with strings, like on “The Glory”, the result is extraordinarily elegant. A hint of twang seeps onto several tracks. It gives cuts like “The Fire Did Go” a Justin Townes Earle quality. The album opener, the whistle-laden “The Thick Of It”, heaves from side-to-side creating a catchy bounce.
Prairie Dog Magazineby: James Brotheridge
We Were Born to Glory sounds like a record that will draw in new fans. Wood’s pure pop sensibility, with every instrument and element in the right place at all times, continues to develop nicely, and his folk foundation oscillates between pop and new wave in a good way (think of a Ric Ocasek/Ron Sexsmith hybrid that somehow works).
Royal Wood has also been blessed with a ridiculously clear voice. It’s all welcome from this stone cold charmer.
Confront Magazineby: Steve K
I am, for the most part, bored with the whole Singer-Songwriter genre. Likewise, I don’t often find myself impressed with what’s offered on Maple Music’s imprint. And Royal Wood, this week’s person-of-interest kind of reminds me in tone and style of Paul McCartney, the Beatle I think the least deserving of success and adulation.
So you would think that, logically, I would hate the Hell out of Royal Wood’s ‘We Were Born to Glory’. Surprisingly, the exact opposite is true. I am thoroughly enjoying this album, because its music is rife with a sincerity I haven’t heard out of McCartney since he was in Wings. It breathes refreshing energy into a musical style that’s underplayed in this day and age, and it does so without pandering or pretense.
The songs here have a folksy romanticism to them, an optimism that’s not overly cloying and a sense of lyrical timing and poetry that is too good to be fakedand neither ironic, sarcastic nor smug, as the case so often is with much of the Coffee-House Hipster music scene this album will inevitably fall into.
Pop Culture Addictby: Sam Tweedle
In a music scene full of questionable talent and electronically distorted vocal tracks, thank God musicians like singer/songwriter Royal Wood still exist. With his classic good looks combined with vintage suits that makes him look like he walked out of an episode of Mad Men, Toronto based Royal Wood is the type of musician that the world needs more of – talented, intense, intelligent and real.
The Coastby: Carsten Knox
With The Waiting, Toronto-based songwriter Royal Wood stakes his claim to a broader audience than his first two full-length releases and two EPs have earned. And that’s no slight against his earlier work—”A Mirror Without” from A Good Enough Day remains his finest four minutes, 39 seconds —but there’s a wider reach to this collection of songs, marrying his typically heart-worn and -warming lyrics and his distinct piano signatures with the bigger, orchestral sounds provided by Sarah McLachlan and Rufus Wainwright producer Pierre Marchand. Witness the gorgeous statement “On Top of Your Love,” now getting big play on CBC Radio 2, the sublimely hooky “Do You Recall” or the lovely, fragile “Lady in White,” doubtlessly bound for many future matrimonial ceremonies.
The Metroby: Rachel Sanders
…sealed his position as one of Canada’s major talents.
Toronto Lifeby: Sarah Liss
Royal Wood is no throwback. Despite his suede-smooth voice and fondness for Steinways and three-piece suits, he prefers to leave Rat Pack revivalism to the Michael Bublés of the world. The thoroughly contemporary multi-instrumentalist has a gift for layered, prismatic arrangements that evoke the work of Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks. As a lyricist, he wears his heart on his bespoke sleeve, offering up wistful tales of love lost and found. Wood’s sensitive poet routine has uncommon roots: after studying business at McGill, he moved to Toronto, where he began working as a foreign exchange trader on Bay Street. Then he released several well-received recordings—most notably A Good Enough Day in 2007, which got air play on Grey’s Anatomy and earned him an international following and enough security to bid a triumphant farewell to the trading floor. (Finance, Wood insists, was merely “the best and only option” to fund his recordings.) His latest album, The Waiting, was produced with Pierre Marchand, who has refined the ornate sounds of Sarah McLachlan and Rufus Wainwright. Marchand’s influence has helped Wood distill his whimsy into smart, sparkling art-pop nuggets: the tunes on The Waiting are crisp, clever and commanding. (Think Wainwright with more chivalry and fewer histrionics.) Wood’s fall show at Exhibition Place’s 1,250-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre is his biggest headlining gig yet: the refurbished room has marvelous acoustics and a level of ceremony and elegance worthy of his dapper performance persona. At last, a venue that fits him as well as his finery.
Ottawa Sunby: Denis Armstrong
Like a sober and spiffily cleaned-up Tom Wait’s, Toronto singer songwriter Royal Wood writes lovely, memorable romantic songs that grab the heart like a gospel singer praising the Lord. “Tonight, I Will Be Your Guide”, “Paradise”, “Lady In White”. Beautiful, spare songs. I received his new album “The Waiting” today at noon and by 5 p.m., had listened to the whole album compulsively four more times. It’s been ages since that happened.
Exclaimby: Rachel Sanders
With grander arrangements and more conviction in his chocolate-rich vocals, Royal Wood steps up on his third album, confirming his position amongst the cream of Canada’s songwriting crop. The Waiting opens with the almost unbearably slick “You Can’t Go Back,” but immediately moves into rougher terrain with the breathtaking “Do You Recall”; Wood’s urgently thudding piano line reels you in and leaves you helpless in its crashing surf of drums and electric pop. The Toronto, ON songwriter pushes his melodies to their limits throughout the first half of the album, hitting another high note with the clatter and rumble of “On Top Of Your Love.” The intensity ebbs midway through and he returns to subtler acoustic arrangements that recall his earlier work, placing his affecting lyrics centre stage. It all winds down with the beautifully weary “When Nothing’s Left,” in which the wrung-out tenor of Wood’s crooning demonstrates the emotional depths he’s plumbed for the sake of musical magic.
The Lost And Found EP
On Royal Wood’s fourth release, the current of chamber pop that wended its way through his previous music has broadened. It’s no longer just a motif. This feels less like experimentation than a new ethos. Along with his romantic piano playing and deep, resonant vocal tones, Wood is joined by a string section (Kevin Fox, cello, Johann Lotter, viola, Chris Church and Sandy Baron, violin). The ensemble enriches from within, rather than making cursory, quick entrances and exits into arrangements. Wood’s songs have always made room for complexity and counterpoint in mood and melody. “Wish to Paint” and “Poor Little World” fully realize this approach.
Royal Wood’s a masterful storyteller, and his lyrics are what make this six-song disc come together.
Opening track “Don’t Fall Apart” is a plea to a couple to figure out their confused ways, while closer “All Of My Life” is a charming vow of a man to a woman as he sings, “Stone on stone and breaking bread/We build a house of us ahead/And talk of all our good and many plans.
Wood’s musical sense allows him to add just the right touch around his lyrics, like on “Thinking About,” when he carefully strums his acoustic guitar. Wood plays piano over top of orchestral swells for most of “Poor Little World.” It all makes for an EP you’ll want to find.
Royal Wood’s The Lost And Found EP may be a buffer between his celebrated 2007 release A Good Enough Day and his full-length follow-up record, but it’s not a disc that’ll fall through the cracks. The only crevices Wood’s enchanting piano melodies and symphonic string arrangements will traverse are those that lead to our deepest, most cherished sentiments. He wields his passions like a sword, eager to fight for his right to share those universal human emotions with no strings attached.
Royal has moved away from the obvious comparisons to greats like Sexsmith and Wainright and now exists as one of their peers.
A Good Enough Day
Spill Magazineby: James Sandham
Self-taught one-man musical master and Toronto native Royal Wood’s third album is set for release Jan. 30 and showcases a mind-bending range of musical talent – all contained in one man! Royal Wood very capablely personifies the word “multi-instrumentalist.” …something quite beautiful. A Good Enough Day is a piano-driven LP comparable to the musical sensibilities of an early Elton John fused with the Beatles, carrying forth together the vocals of a young John Lennon. Gently rolling piano melodies carry Royal Wood’s resonant and softly spoken lyrics, and are accented by simple acoustic guitar arrangements and dreamy, sighed choruses.
The Irish Times
Established as a talented multi- instrumentalist in his native Canada, the wonderfully named Royal Wood makes his Irish debut with this album of beautifully arranged, sweet and graceful melodies fronted by Wood’s voice, which is a peculiar hybrid of Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright. Influences, from early Elton John to Billy Joel and Paul McCartney’s Wings, are lightly worn throughout the album, resulting in instantly memorable tunes. Juliet is a gently persuasive letter to a reluctant lover and Acting Crazy a strangely optimistic anthem for the lovelorn. The Tom Waits vibe of Siren and the Aimee Mann-ish Step Back, with its spooky take on “there’s no place like home”, give a saccharine-cutting edge to the work. With the airwaves dominated by brittle mainstream pop masquerading as indie, Wood deserves a chance to give old- fashioned songwriting a new lease of life.
The Coastby: Sue Carter Flinn
This Toronto-based former child piano prodigy hasn’t squandered his natural talent or sweet tenor voice—A Good Enough Day is a pop delight, an old-fashioned train-car stocked with alternating riffs on love and heartache. Squeaky clean, but not overproduced, fans of Ron Sexsmith and Hawksley Workman—who plays drums on one track—will find plenty to grab hold of, without an annoying nip of imitation. Lovely strings on “Siren” beckon, while “Step Back” takes a fun leap to ’60s pop “do-do-do’s,” providing needed levity. Catchy as hell, “A Mirror Without” has the guts to become a classic. Musically and lyrically well-written, this album is more than good enough.
Eye Magazineby: Paul Isaacs
An excellent showcase … an immaculately produced record
Toronto Sunby: Mary Dickie
ON HIS lovely debut album, Tall Tales, local singer/songwriter Royal Wood conjures up the sensitive lyrics and fragile vocals of Ron Sexsmith as well as the swing of Randy Newman in just under a dozen heartfelt, cleverly constructed songs.
Wood’s a multi-instrumentalist who relies heavily on his beautiful piano playing for much of Tall Tales’ emotional impact, with tasteful string and horn parts adding to the sound but never overpowering the vocals or lyrics.
“They’re in a class of their own, these one-man shows. Toronto-based Royal Wood is the latest in a line of guys, like Danny Michel, who do it all themselves. He’s got a voice a little higher on the register than Bryan Ferry and has a similar classed-up cabaret feel of debut-era Hawksley Workman. These are mostly love songs and tales about growing up. There’s something magical in these common experiences, Royal Wood reminds us, and for that we should thank him.” – The Coast
MetroTorontoby: Ian Nathanson
Much mainstream music tries to grasp greatness amongst albums which, sadly, sound all the same if you listen to them long enough. The new underground, alas, seems to be anyone who can grasp a strong melodic flair and take it to new levels.
Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist Royal Wood already has established himself as a talent to watch with his fine Milkweed EP. And Tall Tales, his debut full-lengther, evokes more of his knack for penning clever, Randy Newman-style songs in his largely piano-driven repertoire: Meaning? Wry humour mixed with cabaret-style melodies à la Rufus Wainwright or a Jeff Buckley.
Combining bounciness in lead hit Suzanne (his own, not a Leonard Cohen) with ballads that wouldn’t sound out of place in a musical of some sorts, Royal Wood has produced a solid disc the mainstream public would -and should – only be too happy to accept.
Toronto Star Interviewby: Vit Wagner
Tall Tales (is) sung with honesty…a follow-up to 2003 The Milkweed EP, it is an assured, polished work.
Local piano-man Royal Wood crafts songs as sturdy and ragged as a freshly cut chunks of oak, but his smooth voice adds a shellac sheen to make them shine like diamonds. Years of slogging it out on the singer/songwriter circuit have paid off handsomely for Wood, in the form of his impressive new debut disc, Tall Tales (Sherpa/MapleNationwide). Evoking storied tunesmiths such as Steely Dan, Jeff Buckley to Hawksley Workman (pre-Bono phase) and burgeoning Brit Ed Harcourt, Royal Wood isn’t afraid to ruffle his solemn sentiments and fragile melodies with cabaret-jazz flourishes and a piano-bar looseness. Before the summer sun creeps in, Tall Tales gives us good reason to keep the drapes drawn for a few more moments.
NOW Magazineby: Dylan Young
It’s telling that Royal Wood was a child musical prodigy. His instincts for manoeuvring around a song are expert. For someone so young, that could only come from having been around music at a very early age. He simply makes it sound too easy. The album drifts from sad pastoral laments to capering piano pop jubilance with an effortlessness that is truly staggering. Vocally and lyrically, Wood comes surprisingly close to Aimee Mann’s stomping grounds, with glancing blows at Ron Sexsmith’s tenebrous pipes and brand of songcraft. But Wood is his own man, his own voice, and the sincerity of his words can’t be blamed on anyone but him.
Chart Attackby: Aaron Foster
With a sultry voice in the vein of Rufus Wainwright, Ron Sexsmith et al, Mr. Wood is definitely on par with his Canadian counterparts, if not better.
Exclaim Magazineby: Vish Khanna
On his first full-length, Royal Wood sets his sights on making a grand pop album and just goes for it. The ambitious Tall Tales finds the multi-instrumentalist marking the same territory as Ron Sexsmith, in his vocal style, while beefing up his sound with a reckless inventiveness that recalls the Beatles. There are many ear-catching sounds snaking their way through Wood’s lush pastiches of music that only bolster his infectious lyricism. Take heed: if you let poppy numbers like “The Spirits and I” and “Once” get into your head, they will not leave. Ditto for an easy ballad like “Sway”. It goes on and on; every song is a charmer in its own right. Armed with a killer band of innovative musicians, Wood makes releasing a great first album look effortless.
Exclaim Magazineby: IKM
ROYAL WOOD Backed with airtight precision by In-Flight Safety (who apparently had practiced only briefly that day in less than accommodating conditions), each song, such as the heavy “Weigh Me Down,” the bouncy “Once” and the enlightening “The Spirits and I,” came to life, anchored by either his piano prowess or guitar playing. Wood is on his way to establishing himself alongside the Canadian royalty of artists such as Slean, Sexsmith and Wainwright.
The Milkweed Ep
University of Calgary Gauntlet
Sounding much like Jeff Buckley without the high-pitched histrionics, Royal Wood crafts classic-sounding pop songs that are instantly accessible.
Royal Wood has made a perfect start to his career and is destined for great things.
A beautiful five song mini-album that somehow manages to blend the songwriting of Tom Waits with a vocal style reminiscent of Jeff Buckley
“The Milkweed EP is…spun-sugar perfection”
Royal Wood crafts classic-sounding pop songs that are instantly accessible…The vocals are confident, the melodies exuberant, and the overall atmosphere is relaxed, making it a great chill-out disc. The only downside to the affair is its brevity. EPs are typically meant to wet the appetite in anticipation of a full length album, and Milkweed has certainly done that, but what am I supposed to do until then?
Following in the footsteps of Randy Newman, Jeff Buckley, and Tom Waits, Royal Wood is ready to establish himself as a force to be reckoned within Canadian music.