Producers – Made in Basing Street

30 06 2012

Producers are Lol Creme (Godley & Creme, 10cc), Trevor Horn (producer known for his work with Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Seal, ABC‘s Lexicon of Love, Grace Jones Slave to the Rhythm and singer / bassist in The Buggles and for one album, Yes), Stephen Lipson (guitarist / engineer / producer who worked with Horn on a lot of ZTT recordings) and Ash Soan (former Del Amitri / Squeeze drummer, now an in-demand session drummer).

The band started out as a live covers band, albeit made up of multi-million selling producers / musicians! The Producers initially existed as a way for the musicians to escape from the confines of the studio environment, and they rehearsed a set of songs by other artists that they had produced over the years.

The project soon grew into something greater and the band released a couple of singles (Freeway & Barking Up The Right Tree) in 2007, but this is their first full-length release, almost six years in the making.

Album opener Freeway is ushered in with Frankie-esque synths, and is a love-song to driving around Los Angeles.  Freeway introduces the two main vocalists on the album – singer / songwriter Chris Braide and Ryan Malloy (former vocalist in the short-lived post Holly Johnson Frankie Goes to Hollywood).

Geoff Downes (The Buggles / Asia) is another key player, appearing on every track, contributing keyboards, piano and rhodes.

Your Life is the first of three songs featuring Trevor Horn on lead vocals. As a big fan of The Buggles and the Yes Drama album, I had hoped for more Horn lead vocals. Maybe the next album? Ryan Malloy takes over lead vocals on the chorus of Your Life.

An extended version of the track can be found on the 2 disc version of the album, and it works well in an extended format, with some lovely trademark Trevor Horn heavy reverb on the vocals. There is a lovely pace to the song in this extended mix.

ZTT regular Luís Jardim also appears on Your Life, and the extended version on the second disc features Ryan Malloy on vocals throughout the song.

copyright Producers

Man on the Moon is a mid-70s FM radio style ballad with a fine vocal performance from Malloy and an outstanding guitar solo from Steve Lipson.

The haunting Every Single Night In Jamaica features Trevor Horn as the sole vocalist, and builds towards a killer chorus. Maybe this is how The Buggles would sound in 2012 if they were still recording?

“I know it’s you I should call
But my hearts not in it at all.”

Stay Elaine would not sound out of place on a mid-70s Rod Stewart album (that’s not a criticism by the way), and at times has hints of Del Amitri. Lovely guitar harmonics see out the song.

Barking Up The Right Tree is the only song to feature Lol Creme on lead vocals. A different version from the 2007 release, it’s one of the strongest songs on the album and is sequenced well to follow the previous track, which has a similar 70s feel. Gorgeous layered harmonies on top of Steve Lipson’s slide guitar make this song a personal album highlight.

Garden Of Flowers is the final song to feature Trevor Horn on lead vocals, and has touching lyrics, which possibly reference a personal tragedy that has been well documented. Despite it’s subject matter, it’s a very uplifting song, and highlights that although he is known primarily for his production skills, Horn is a unique vocalist and a damn fine bass player.

The album ends with a couple of uptempo songs – Watching You Out There and the album closer, You & I, another track with Chris Braide on lead vocals. Although Chris features throughout the album, he is no longer part of the band, but continues to record his own music, as well as writing for artists such as Lana del Rey and Sia.

I would recommend the 2-CD version of the album, which contains a hidden track at the end.  I won’t give too much away, but it goes back to the beginning of the band, with a live cover version of a key song by a band I’ve already mentioned.  That’s all I’m saying…. Ha!

Made in Basing Street is an excellent rock / pop album.  Hopefully it won’t take six years for Horn / Creme / Lipson & Soan to put together a follow-up release.

Made In Basing Street (2 CD version) at Amazon
Made in Basing Street (single CD) on Amazon

Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man in the Universe

23 06 2012

Bobby Womack’s albums The Poet (1981) and The Poet II (1984) were two of my favourite 80s releases, but I’ve not heard much else from Womack apart from the wonderful Across 110th Street, the mid 80s When the Weekend Comes and the co-write of The Rolling Stone’s It’s All Over Now.

The Bravest Man in the Universe is the first album of new material since the mid 1990s, and follows on from his 2010 Gorillaz appearance.

Damon Albarn and Richard Russell have to take a lot of credit for the direction this album has taken. Free of old-time soul cliches, the arrangements and instrumentation underpin some of Womack’s finest vocal performances.

The 68 year old soul singer has a new gritty tone to his vocals, that sit perfectly with the glitchy electronic backing to most of the songs.

Please forgive my heart could easily have sat on one of the classic Poet albums from the 80s, but where those tracks were quite conservative in their arrangement, the 2012 Womack tracks rely heavily on drum machines, decaying piano and dub bass.

Womack’s guitar playing on the end of Please forgive my heart and it’s following track, Deep River is sparse, honest and under-played. My only criticism is that his guitar playing should have featured more on the album.

Lana Del Rey duets with Womack on one of the albums key tracks, Dayglo Reflection. A sample of Sam Cooke speaking also features on the song, which has echoes of trip-hop’s finest band, Portishead.

Whatever happened to the times is build around a cheap, haunting organ refrain, and distorted, echo-laden vocals and has a spirit of experimentation rarely heard in the soul genre.  This is the second time Womack has recorded this song – the first version was on 1985’s So Many Rivers album.  The 2012 take simply blows the original out of the water.  Stripped of Van Halenesque lead guitar and a gutteral vocal on the 80s original, the 2012 version pushes the emotion to the fore, and is no doubt the definitive recording of this song.

The late Gil Scott-Heron features on the intro to Stupid, a breakbeat driven song featuring bittersweet lyrics that appear to take aim at corrupt preachers.

The album fades a little toward the end, with Love is gonna lift you up feeling a little too light in comparison with the preceding tracks.  Luckily the album picks up again with Nothin’ Can Save Ya, featuring Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara and the albums closing track, the soul standard Jubilee (Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around).

So whilst both Poet albums will always hold a special place in my heart, The Bravest Man in the Universe has already become my favourite Bobby Womack album, and is one of my favourite albums of 2012.  A career highlight, you bet!

Buy Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe from Amazon

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