Ben & Jason
The fey acoustic sound favoured by Ben Parker (b. Surrey, England) and Jason Hazeley (b. Essex, England) drew inevitable comparisons to the work of legendary English singer-songwriter, Nick Drake. Hazeley and Parker met while both were working for the same sheet music company. They soon bonded through their mutual love of Drake’s music and their distaste for the day job, but it was several years before the duo began writing songs together. They recorded several tracks during a free recording session at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios, leading to a contract with Go! Beat Records. The duo’s eight-track mini-album Hello was released to great acclaim in early 1999. The opening track, ‘Joe’s Ark’, featured a string arrangement by former Drake collaborator Robert Kirby. Hazeley and Parker had traced Kirby, who had long ago retired from the music scene, to persuade him to arrange their track. In a busy year, the duo finished preparations on their debut album while pursuing a lucrative sideline writing songs for EastEnders actress turned pop singer, Martine McCutcheon. Emoticons was another impressive collection of elegantly crafted folk pop. The innate strength of songs such as ‘What I Meant To Say’ and ‘Air Guitar’ enabled the album to rise above the inevitable Drake comparisons, although this time around critics also noted similarities to Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. In September, Parker and Hazeley appeared at The Tribute To Nick Drake concert at London’s Barbican Centre.
Critically fêted but commercially undervalued, Ben And Jason completed a second album for Go! Beat that failed to match the excellence of their previous recordings. The duo elected to call it a day after being dropped by their record label. Goodbye was belatedly released by Setanta Records.