Paul Hardcastle: The Snoozejazzmaster

You’d slide out of your chair too. From boredom.

Jazz: noun, often attributive \’jaz\ a type of American music with lively rhythms and melodies that are often made up by musicians as they play

Jazz. Say the word. J-A-Z-Z. Paul Hardcastle calls his side project “The Jazzmasters.” If he means he plays instrumentals, it is. If he means truly understanding the idiom, it’s not.

A lot of jazz albums end up in my mailbox.  A few are good.   Some are terrible.  There are some rare gems, but most are competently mediocre.

The Jazzmasters VII is total shit.   It is dull beyond belief.   It is tedium, tiresome and the embodiment of the worst of snooze jazz.   It didn’t even hold my interest long enough to get me to hate it.

The not-so Secret Sauce of Hardcastle’s success is his music is designed, calculated, formulated and manufactured so as not to deviate from the template. There is no discernible difference between a Jazzmasters release and a Hardcastle solo joint. They are interchangeable and the sound faithfully follows Hardcastle’s freeze-dried jazz/chill formula. This sort of Tinker Toy, generic pap is popular in the same way McDonald’s french fries are popular: all the consumer must do is consume. Whether it provides any nutritional value is purely secondary.

The titles are generic. “Unlimited Love,” “Soft Rain” and “Starlight Express” sound like names for bottles of perfume. Songs start, stop tinkle quietly and fade away. There isn’t a single hook or a spontaneous moment. There are no twists, no turns, no diversion, no digression, and no deviation, only cold efficiency.

To be a jazz master shouldn’t you actually play jazz?

If you’re a fan of this sort of thing and dig Hardcastle’s chilled out drizzle and you’ve consumed his past product here’s some more of the same old same old. At this point in his career, Hardcastle can be described as one football coach described the other team: He is who we thought he was. Only in the most liberal sense of the word can the sound recordings of Hardcastle be even remotely considered to be any sort of “jazz.”

It is false advertising to proclaim there are any masters of jazz on The Jazzmasters. Hardcastle certainly isn’t interested in lively rhythms and melodies that are often made up by musicians as they play. This is background music. It’s too mechanical, too bloodless  and too flat-out lazy to be anything more than empty sound.

Duke was a jazz master. Miles was a jazz master. Thelonious was a jazz master. Paul Hardcastle is about as much a jazz master as a Kardashian sister.    Before he dubs himself a “jazzmaster” he should learn how to play some first.

Track Listing: Unlimited Love; Rhythm of Life; Free to Fly; Starlight Express; Soft Rain; Domino Effect; Pulse of the Universe; Unlimited Love (the Strings), Come On; Breathe; Echoes of Eternity; Rhythm of Life (Chill Reprise)

Personnel: Paul Hardcastle: unspecified instruments; Rock Hendricks: saxophone; Paul Hardcastle,Jr. : saxophone idea (1); Maxine Hardcastle: backing vocals (2); Cindy Bradley: trumpet (1); Margo Ledue: backing vocals (3)

Record Label: Trippin n Rhythm Records

A different version of this review originally published at All About Jazz.


Paul Hardcastle’s No Stress Success

Paul Hardcastle‘s greatest strength? Consistency. Paul Hardcastle’s greatest weakness? Also consistency. Before you applaud or boo Hardcastle you must admit this: the man knows what he does best and he is not about to stop doing it based on what critics say when his global audience tells him that’s exactly the way they like it.

There is essentially no difference between Hardcastle’s solo and his Jazzmasters releases. The same musicians appear on both. The music is interchangeable as well. Even the album covers have similar generic art of sunsets, waterfalls and dreamy-eyed models deep in reflection.

Is it formulaic? Yes, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He delivers what his fans want: consistency and professionalism. Hardcastle is still a one-man band weaving smooth jazz and chill with a gutsier version of New Age soundscapes mashed up with electronic beats, airy wordless vocals, bubbling keyboards and silky saxophones riffs. This sort of workmanlike approach goes against the grain of the jazz aficionado, but that’s probably not Hardcastle’s target demographic anyway.

That doesn’t mean Hardcastle is averse to incorporating a few variations on his successful theme. On VII he goes long; as in 11 minutes long on the lead-off “The Truth (Shall Set You Free)” and a few other tracks blow past the six and seven-minute mark. Everything you would expect from Hardcastle is here. The beats, the vocals, the keyboard, the sax and that ever-present mood of dreamily lying in the grass staring up at the clouds as they roll by is here in abundance.


Where “The Truth (Shall Set You Free)” goes beyond expectation is it is a song suite without being called one, as it changes in subtle shifts and displays a greater than usual degree of innovation and complexity. Hardcastle layers the instrumentation and vocals with a change-up near the 8:00 minute mark. If it never quite achieves grandiosity, “The Truth (Shall Set You Free)” is proof Hardcastle is willing to push himself from time to time.

Nothing else on VII aspires to that level of ambition, though “No Stress At All” is admittingly inspired by the Kool and the Gang‘s “Summer Madness” it has some fine moments. The remainer of the album is the usual indistinct soundscapes.

Hardcastle may never have another big hit like “19” or “Rain Forest” in his repertoire, but maybe he doesn’t need one as long as he keeps his devoted following happy even as his continued popularity baffles his critics.    You can fight  but you’re not going to make Hardcastle switch.  He knows what he knows and he does what he does.

Track Listing: The Truth (Shall Set You Free); No Stress At All; Summer Love; Crystal Whisper; Easy Street; Dance of the Wind; Apache Warrior; Stepping On Shadows; Love Is A Power; The Truth (Shall Set You Free) Reprise

Personnel: Paul Hardcastle: keyboards, programming, unspecified instrumentation; Rock Hendricks: saxophones; Maxine Hardcastle: lead and backing vocals; Paul Hardcastle, Jr. : unspecified instruments; Helen Rogers: vocal samples, Mark Hasselbach: trumpet (2, 7)

This review originally published at All About Jazz.

Feeding the Troll

There’s one thing that is a dead certainty about expressing your opinion.  Once you do the world is free to agree or disagree with it.   It’s those who disagree with an opinion whom are most likely to respond.   The default position for those who don’t like something they’ve read is to take to their laptops and let you know in no uncertain terms just how full of it you really are.

Every now and then, the subject of your opinion takes it upon themselves to handle that task themselves.

Do I really believe Paul Hardcastle took the time to write a snarky, trolling response to the review of Hardcastle VI All About Jazz chose not to run?  No.  More likely it’s only a pissed off Paul Hardcastle fan taking it upon themselves to defend their man’s honor.  That, or Hardcastle spends every day doing Google searches on himself.

Typically, I don’t waste time feeding obvious trolls.  Deleting their drivel without comment is typically the smart play instead of encouraging them by acknowledging their meaningless existence. But I’m amused by how  much effort “Paul” put into , so I’m going to do him the biggest favor he’s received in a long time.  I’m going to take him seriously.   For the most part.


October 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for an entertaining read
But It must be so obvious even to you !
That all you did with you’re so called review was you just copied what you said last time,

This album is crap, Paul is crap , the music is crap bla bla bla
Personally I couldn’t give a hoot what you say about me, but to see you moaning that an editor has seen through your poor attempt at being a journalist and won’t publish it, now that’s hilarious,

I dont have an issue with people who don’t like what I do but any “decent journalist” would have the guts to say No I won’t review that because I will never give a fair opinion, or in your case you just copied what you said from last time,
Do you really need the odd few free CDs that desperately ?

I noticed you wrote “99 percent of these reviews sale through without a problem”
What does that mean ? Sale through it’ doesn’t make any sense Jeff !
sale is when someone buys something, or maybe you mean “SAIL” through,
So before you start giving out lectures about being crap, I suggest you get your own house in order,

I’m sorry if I have offended you by making records that people seem to wan’t to buy, I suppose they are all either stupid or deaf in your opinion, at least 10 million of them !

Seems to me a little jealousy is getting the better of you here Jeff, but good luck with your career seems you may just need it a little more than me



Thanks for the advice and enjoying the entertaining read, “Paul” (or whoever you really are), but I have to tell you, if you have nothing better to do with your time than trolling the Internet looking for blogs mentioning you, it might be you in need of the career counseling.

I’m always amused when someone says “I don’t have an issue…” then goes on at length about their petty little issue.   It indicates an inconsistency in thinking.   There’s no inconsistency in your music, “Paul.”  It’s been the same noodling synth-based grove for over 20 years now.   If you’ve really sold and resold and resold again endless variations of “Rain Forest” to 10 million happy, but not overly demanding consumers, haven’t you banked enough by now to hire an actual band by now?

The world didn’t need yet another rehash of “Rain Forest” and “19” but by God and money, you’re going to keep giving them to us, aren’t you, “Paul?”  Well, you’re the artist, so follow your muse wherever it leads you, but did you have to a real artist like poor, dead Martin Gaye into this?   Comparing “What’s Going On” to one of your ditties is like comparing prime rib to tofu, but if dragging a dead man into your synthesized sludge is your idea of a classy move, “Paul,” I guess you deserve credit for packing a pair of some elephant-sized gonads.

I do thank you however for pointing out I used “sale” instead of “sail.”  Good catch there, “Paul.”   You should be a critic.   Who’s going to point out to you any “decent jazz musician” doesn’t keep endlessly recycling their one or two biggest hits?  That’s what a hack does.  A creative and bold artist challenges both himself and their listener by daring to do something different every so often.  Go listen to some Miles Davis or something, “Paul.”  You might learn something.

Miles didn’t keep dusting off “So What?” every five years and just change the title.   If you really want to claim you’re a “Jazzmaster” why don’t you try something radical and actually play some jazz now and then?

Miles Davis. Accept no phony "Jazzmasters."

I hardly think the “at least 10 million” or so buyers of your music are deaf or stupid, “Paul” and if you can read you know I never suggested anything of the kind.   I’m sure they’re all very nice people.   I know this because I’m one of those 10 million and you really ought to be nicer to someone who’s put their money in your pocket.

But if you can’t be nice, “Paul” try to be something other than boring.   You make “music” that sounds like you wake up in the morning, put on your robe and slippers, paddle down the steps to put on a cup of tea and bang out a couple of tunes in the home studio while you’re waiting for the water to boil.    It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s totally forgettable.

I’ll defer to you “Paul” and your far greater experience with producing crap, wrapping it up in a generic album cover and presenting it as a brand new package of More Of The Same.   You’ve become a master of it.   What you haven’t become a master of is expressing yourself all that well in your rebuttal to bloggers who talk smack about your assembly line Muzak.   I found a few typos of your own, “Paul” but I wouldn’t be so rude as to try to toss them in your face.   I leave that sort of thing to guys who ran out of ideas two decades ago.

By the way,  how does someone with the mailing address of “” get to question anyone’s “guts?” A real man wouldn’t hide behind a fake e-mail address.   Is that how they roll in the burg of Tamworth, in the region of Staffordshire, in the United Kingdom, Lat: 52.6167° Long: -1.6833?°

Take some of that money you hustled out of your fans, “Paul” and upgrade your computer’s OS.   Windows Vista is played out, playa.  You are too.

The (Not So) Great Lost Paul Hardcastle Review

A guy with one good idea he's run into the ground

Whenever you write a review of an album, typically the editor checks it for spelling and punctuation errors, makes sure it’s formatted correctly and that it fits with the publication’s internal style guide.  99 percent of these reviews sail through without a problem.

Then there’s the one percent like this one.

The editor of All About Jazz kicked this review of Paul Hardcastle’s new album back to me with a lengthy grocery list of reasons for doing so.   Among the more interesting ones were “this kind of verbiage simply sounds like a writer scoring points off the artist, who they clearly don’t like” and the review “doesn’t reflect well on either yourself or AAJ.”

Every writer who has ever submitted their work to an editor occasionally disagrees with editorial decisions.   Creative people have their conflicts.   The editor suggested I rewrite the review.  I declined having figured I had already devoted enough time to a musician I have no strong feelings for and upon going back to the review, I found it acceptable.  My opinion is admittedly biased, but I disagreed with the editor and wrote back to tell him so.

It’s evident to me we don’t agree on the Paul Hardcastle review.  I went back and gave it another reading.   Your comment about me trying to  “score points on the artist”  is not how I see it at all.

This is a review about a guy who hasn’t had an original idea in 26 years.  If I wanted to “score points” I’d call him Paul Hackcastle, not Paul Hardcastle.   That is scoring points.  That is criticizing the music, not the man.   I didn’t do that.  You’re right that I don’t much like Hardcastle, but I believe I gave valid reasons in the review.

It’s your call to run the review or reject it.   As a freelancer I’m well aware what a writer thinks is perfectly acceptable, the editor may say, “Sorry.  Not so much.”

I’ve spent all the time on Paul Hardcastle 6 I intend to.   If I wanted to write it for my blog I would have posted it there.   I wrote it for AAJ.   If you don’t feel it’s up to AAJ standards, then you don’t have to run it.

However, your criticism that it “doesn’t reflect well on either yourself or AAJ”  reads like you’re scoring points on me.

As AAJ’s editor you’re well qualified to reflect upon what doesn’t reflect well on AAJ.   I’m the person who can best assess what doesn’t reflect well on me.

He responded, but bottom line is we disagreed.  It happens.  He’s the editor.  I’m the contributor.  The final word is always his so there’s no point in arguing and ending a relationship both parties have found mutually beneficial until now.  I get free music.  They get reviews of the music.  It’s a win-win and I’m not going to walk away from a five-year professional relationship over a guy like Hardcastle who keeps endlessly recycling the one or two ideas he had 20 years ago. 

Maybe he is a hack, but why jeopardize my access for him?

I did however change my mind.  I figured since I wrote the review, somebody might want to read it besides myself and the editor.

So here’s the (not so) Great Lost Paul Hardcastle review. that was too strong for All About Jazz.

The only thing more generic than the cover is the music.

What’s the difference between a Paul Hardcastle solo album and his Jazzmasters side project ? Okay, that’s a trick question. There is no discernible difference as one project sounds exactly like the other. The music is interchangeable and indistinguishable between the two as the signature sound of Hardcastle’s laid back soundscapes haven’t changed much from his mid-Eighties hits, “Rain Forest” and “19,” both of which show up here in remixed form.

The chill sub-genre leans heavily on plenty of synthesizers, airy vocals, some random sax solos with a some stray flutes and what sounds like vibes (but probably isn’t). It’s too fast for New Age but too colorless to be called jazz, Hardcastle VI lacks the heart or soul to be thought of as little more than fast-food music; mass produced with enough flavor that it tastes good, but not enough to be memorable.

Which isn’t to say this is necessarily bad. Fast food can taste pretty good if you’re in the mood for it and the “Rainforest/What’s Going On” mash-up of Hardcastle’s “Rainforest” and “19” with a sample of {{Marvin Gaye}}’s activist anthem, “What’s Going On?” deserves points for audacity. Depending upon how open the listener’s mind is, this is either an interesting idea or a total travesty. Either way, Hardcastle deserves credit for blending two totally conflicting styles in one pretty passable package.

“Night Time Hustle” and ” Easy Come Easy Go” pick up the pace to the point that if you’re not careful you might actually try to get up and dance. Though Hardcastle is often associated with dancing, whenever Hardcastle VI risks prompting a response other than listening passively another humdrum track featuring Becki Biggins’ vapid vocals wobbles in until the urge passes.

The fans of the Paul Hardcastle formula will welcome the latest installment in what seems like the longest single album in recorded history. It might take only the most hardcore Hardcastle devotee to discern the deviation between Hardcastle VI and the straight line that runs to his eponymous debut some 26 years earlier. For others they may well wonder how this bloodless, passionless music got classified as any sort of jazz.