Album Review: Last One Left by William Howard Hope Jr.

Album Review: Last One Left by William Howard Hope Jr.

Will was like a brother to me. Our friendship had its ups and downs over the years, but the adversity only made us stronger as we grew older. Will was a very private man and kept a lot of the details of his life to himself, and that also included many of his creative endeavors. Will (who most people knew as “Bill” when he was younger) was best known as an excellent guitar player, but his natural skills and creative talents shined in any artistic expression he’d dive into. He was a very skilled writer and helped me edit and finish writing one of my books years ago. It’s a shame he did not write a book himself, as his skills were superior to mine and he had written quite a bit over the years. Musically he was one of the most proficient writers I have ever known. From roughly 1989 to 2001 he wrote many albums worth of music –nearly all of it either rhythmically interesting or melodically memorable. He had a keen sense of song-writing and was a devoted student of music theory. Some of these creations would take a while to sink in, while others were instantly accessible. All were of high quality, and as I have experienced, have stood the test of time. Will and I joined forces a couple times in bands and some of those songs we wrote were recorded or performed live. Sadly, though, the majority of his works never were heard beyond a few friends and possibly family members. In 2000 Will immersed himself in the keyboard. He had dabbled with piano years earlier, but from 2000 on he seemed more passionate about the keys than he did the guitar. Other than one song he wrote in 2010, Will composed most of his keyboard songs in 2000 and 2001. He sent me a cassette tape in early 2001 with 15 complete songs, along with another five, newer, unfinished songs. For some reason all the music only came out of one speaker. He was very annoyed to hear of that, but shortly thereafter I never heard about it again, and it seemed his passion for the keys disappeared for a number of years. When Will died in 2014 he had left instructions for his entire music catalog to pass on to me, to “hopefully do something great with.” Knowing that so many of his creations did not get the audience they deserved, I have felt compelled to compile and release some of this music to the public. I went through dozens of cassette tapes to find stereo versions of the 15 completed songs. I converted them to digital. All were instrumentals except one, but I could not find a stereo version of his vocals, so I re-recorded them myself. My friend Jeff Alexis at Firestorm Studios helped me with that and also boosted the sound quality and prepared them for a final CD compilation along with Will’s last song from 2010.

The album cover is an enhanced photo of Will and I walking on a beach in Oregon in 2007, taken by my wife. The music within is beautiful, too, and colored with emotions. In some ways I believe they shed light on the sometimes hidden, complex inner workings of the composer. Some of these songs are unique and eccentric. Some are reminiscent of the past. Some are instantly catchy while others need time to breathe and digest. Will could play music like a technician, but at times his creations spoke directly from his soul. Life is full of darkness and light, and these songs ungulate in and out. Will was a deep thinker and also very sensitive. Life sometimes radiated from him like sunshine, with youthful energy and passion,  but he could also disappear into the depths of darkness and despair. I don’t know if these songs have more of an impact on me today because of his passing, but he was human, and a creator, and these songs represent something he created from nothing.  Knowing him like I did, they are not only impressions in time, they are expressions of what was inside of him.

I have already sent copies of this CD to people I know who were closest to Will, but would be happy to do the same for anyone else who is interested. These are not being mass-produced, nor are they for profit. I print one out at a time and only ask for the price of materials and postage. I have every intention to record and release some of his guitar work in the future, but this one is all about the keys. A good song lasts forever…as long as you have the chance to hear it. This is your chance to hear some of Will’s music, written, performed, and recorded by the man himself. I’ve had many years to let these songs sink in, so please, take your time. They will grow on you.

Last One Left

CD plus postage: $6

Payable to Murray Neill

104 Sioux Trail

Evergreen, CO 80439