Trollheart's Treasures: Solid Gold - Music Banter Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The MB Reader > Album Reviews
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-26-2022, 05:23 AM   #11 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,938

Blue is the Colour - The Beautiful South - 1996 (GO! Disc Records)

The only album I have from this band in my collection, and why? Well, one sunny afternoon the doorbell rang and there was the figure we all dread to see, the door-to-door trader who has such great bargains that he simply can't live with himself if he lets you go without making a sale. I mean, it would be rude! These guys are, as you probably know, should you have the bad judgement or luck to open the door to them, notoriously intransigent and relentless. If you don't buy something they keep dropping the price, pushing, pushing, trying to wear you down. Normally I just make some excuse - bedclothes? Nah, just bought a whole new set thanks! Perfume? Don't use it mate! - and eventually, after a decent effort to try not to be impolite, close the door in their face. Nothing says "No sale!" quite as well as a slammed door.

But this once I found myself mildly interested. This guy was selling CDs. Hmm. Mind you, my hopes didn't get up too high: usually when someone's selling CDs door to door they're a) cheap knock-offs and b) chart rubbish. And so they were. Albums I wouldn't take if he had been giving them away. But then I noticed this album in his voluminous bag and I thought, well, you know, I've heard a few singles, they're popular at the moment but still cool enough to be credible: what the hell? Give it a go.

So I didn't really expect too much once I got around to playing the disc (this was back in the nineties, before I ended up downloading far more music than I could ever expect to listen to, and discs being a physical item tended to get played more or less right away) but I was impressed. It didn't make me a fan of theirs, didn't send me scurrying out on a search for their other albums, but it was decent enough that even now I sometimes play it through, forgetting how good it is.

The opener is well known, with its upbeat acoustic guitar intro and Jacqui Abbot's lilting vocal sweetly singing "Don't marry her, fuck me" as it was a hit single for them, one of four from the album. Nice bit of piano and organ with electric guitar then coming in too, and it's a sarcastic, bitter and yet engaging song that had everyone singing the chorus with drunken glee, a tale of the dangers of getting tied down with a wife and two-point-four kids. Another acoustic effort in "Little Blue", this time with Paul Heaton taking the vocal, very laidback but with a dark tone underpinning it, and "Mirror" has a more folky feel to it on the guitar, the percussion from Dave Stead helping it along and it sort of presages the big hit "Rotterdam" later. There are some fairly surreal lyrics: "Imagine a mirror bigger/ Than the room it was placed in/ Imagine a rod / That cannot hold the fish." Jacqui takes vocal duties here again and does well with them.

One of the standouts then is next, as with a lovely flowing piano line "Blackbird on the Wire" becomes the first real ballad. Heaton sings this one with a soft, crooning voice, accompanied by Damon Butcher on the piano. Butcher is not a part of The Beautiful South, and is credited as an additional musician on the album, but he's indispensable for this track which it completely built on his keyboard melody. Slightly more upbeat then is "The sound of North America" with bitter recrimination in the lyric - "The sound of North America / Isn't the sound of Christians praying/ It's the sound of shuffling feet/ That don't know where they're staying" - and some lovely strings programming and horns. Then the inappropriately-titled "Have Fun" is a lovely soft mid-paced song with both Abbott and Heaton singing, with sarcasm and irony dripping from every line - Have fun/ And if you can't have fun/ Have someone else's fun/ Cos someone sure had mine."

You know something? For all the yelling, screeching and cursing punk spat at us, sometimes it's the simple songwriting craft of a normal band that gets the message across more effectively. I mean, what can you say about a line like "I'm the lighthouse-keeper/ To the owner of this shipwrecked heart"? Lovely rising keyboard lines here and more strings, ending on a nice high guitar passage. Superb. Heaton then emulates my hero Tom Waits in the wonderfully sleazy "Liar's Bar", doing a passable imitation of the gravel-voiced music icon, even writing a lyric Waits would probably be proud of: "I'm a stand-up comedian/ But I'd sit down if I could/ The world just seems to want/ People like me to stand." Again great piano work from Butcher - what else would you have in a Waitsesque song? Strangely though this was released as a single (sarcasm overload). This is never single material: it's a great album track but the record-buying chart-loving sheep would never entertain this.

The final single, and the biggest hit from the album, is of course "Rotterdam (Or Anywhere)", which hit a chord with pub audiences everywhere with its upbeat, devil-may-care lyric and party atmosphere. Carried mostly on guitar and keys it's a toe-tapper for sure with Jacqui back on vocals. A real jazzy number next, replete with horns and rockabilly guitar, not one of my favourites on the album to be honest. "Foundations" is a short track, the shortest on the album in fact at just over two and a half minutes and coming closest to their previous incarnation the Housemartins. Another ballad, "Artificial Flowers" appears to be a very old showtune and the only cover on the album, driven again on Damon Butcher's lonely piano and warbling organ. Sad little song, along the lines of the Little Matchstick Girl. "One God" is led in by Butcher's soft organ and a sort of tripping percussion, with Jacqui back on vocals, joined by Paul later for a rather touching duet as the song reaches its climax.

Another tip of the hat to Waits in the shuffling closer, "Alone", which gives you the definite impression of a man in a shabby overcoat wending his way home under guttering streetlights, clutching a brown paper bag from which he takes another swig before tossing it into the street, not watching where it lands as he attempts to cross the street against the traffic. Thank you, and goodnight. Great little closer to a pretty unexpectedly great album.


1. Don't Marry Her
2. Little Blue
3. Mirror
4. Blackbird on the Wire
5. The Sound of North America
6. Have Fun
7. Liars' Bar
8. Rotterdam (Or Anywhere)
9. Artificial Flowers
10. One God
11. Alone

So I suppose in the end I should be more tolerant of those hawkers, shouldn't I? After all, without that interruption to my day and knock at the door I would in all likelihood never have thought of buying this album, and if I remember correctly (which is never a given by any means) I brought it into work and everyone there wanted to hear it or have a copy of it. So being a pirated copy itself, it got replicated several times. How's that for self-propagating?

But then, when an album is this good you really do want to spread it around as much as you can, which is what I did. The difference being, of course, that I took no payment for the copies I made (yer honour!) - the appreciation of the music by my workmates was all the reward I needed or wanted.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-26-2022, 09:11 PM   #12 (permalink)
Music Addict
Join Date: Apr 2022
Location: Canada
Posts: 757

I inherited a CD from this band recently (called "0898"). I haven't played it yet. I guess I should ASAP!
music_collector is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-10-2022, 07:18 PM   #13 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,938

Time - Rod Stewart - 2013 (Decca)

Yes, I’ve been raving about this for months now, and it’s odd because I’m not a huge fan of Rod’s. Like everyone, I know the hits - “Maggie May”, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”, “Sailing” etc - but would not, prior to this, have considered buying one of his albums, bar his greatest hits, which I do own. And it was more curiosity than anything else that drew me to this on the new releases section of my favourite album vendor. At first I took it to be a greatest hits compilation - after all, what did Rod do these days other than release greatest hits compilations? But looking further into it, I discovered it was a whole new studio album; new tracks, new songs, an original composition, his first since 2001, not counting his various covers and tribute albums released since then.

So I was intrigued. The guy’s a legend, after all, but would he still be able to cut it in the twenty-first century? Would he, like so many others before him and from his general era, try to update his sound, adding influences from today’s music? Would he collaborate with some of this century’s better-known stars? Or would the album sound dated, ageing, out of, as they say, time? Only one way to find out, so I bought it and played it. What I discovered was a man who, at the age of sixty-eight and with over twenty albums to his credit, over twenty top ten singles, five of which were number ones, can still stand shoulder to shoulder with the best and show ‘em how it’s done, and remains relevant even thirty-five years after his career took off.

It’s a little depressing to note that the singles released from this album so far have failed to even make a dent in the charts, and I guess ol’ Rod doesn’t have the pulling power he used to, when almost everything he touched turned to gold, and he only had to record a song for it to be a hit. But these are different times, people want different things, and this, so far as I can see with my limited knowledge of his music, is a very different Rod Stewart album. Of course, there will be those of you - most of you, probably - who will scoff and jeer at my championing the cause of the music of an old man, and to be honest I’m as surprised as anyone that this album impressed me as it did. But then, everyone seems to be raving about Elton John’s first album in seven years, and he’s from the same time period. It is however gratifying to see that Time slipped right in there at number one in the album charts, so someone appreciates good music.

It opens with a big, bright, bouncy love song which affirms Rod’s happiness with his new love, and Celtic instrumentation being the thing these days he has fiddle, accordion and also dulcimer and maracas giving the song a very folky feel. The album has been praised as his “most personal to date” and indeed it is: all through the album Rod either reflects on his past or looks to the future, and in every track, on every song he seems to be thankful for what he now has, his bad boy days gone. In many ways, he’s the antithesis of Robbie Williams, whose new album I reviewed some time back. Robbie, now fast approaching forty, is still trying to be the Peter Pan figure and hold on to his fading youth on Take the Crown, trying to hold back time and age and live in a perpetual world of booze, birds and bad boy behaviour. Rod, on the other hand, seems much more comfortable in his skin, at peace with himself and his place in the world.

I get the impression this album was not necessarily released as an assault on the charts, or to prove he still has it, or even to make money, for why would he need that? To me, this seems more an affirmation of life, a joyous celebration of everything he has achieved, and perhaps as a thank you to the fans for putting him where he is today. Then again, maybe it is just for the money. But it certainly does not give me that sort of vibe. I also find that, despite the fact that the music here is pretty great really, this is an album which really transcends music. Yeah, that’s incredibly pompous, isn’t it? What I mean to say is that in many ways the music is not the most important thing on the record; it’s almost more a state of mind, a way of looking at things and the pure and simple joy of realising you’re alive, and all that entails, that informs the album. Granted, it’s a lot easier to be happy about life when you’re rich, but even so I get a sense of exuberance from Time which, while fully realising he is the age he is, makes you think of Rod as a younger man, full of hope and promise for the future.

Indeed, the second track almost confirms this, as “Can’t Stop Me Now” chronicles his early success and rise to fame, namechecking his famous hit along the way - ”Then along came Maggie May” - while still realising that it’s his millions of fans who put him where he is today. ”Thanks for the faith” he sings, and it really sounds sincere, ”Thanks for the patience, thanks for the helping hand.” Another upbeat song, it’s full of the youthful enthusiasm that must have filled the young Stewart as he suddenly realised he was on the way to making it big. It’s more a rock track than the previous, with harder guitar and a nice Scottish sound on possibly some sort of pipes; probably keyboards if I’m honest. It’s hard though not to get swept up in the optimism and excitement, and to feel yourself in the young man’s shoes, the world at his feet.

The first single from the album, which sadly did far worse than I would have hoped it would, is a bittersweet ballad where Rod realises a love affair has come to an end, and it’s best just to let it go. “It’s Over” is full of regret and loss, sorrow and pain, but also a sort of fatalistic acceptance. Well, no, not fatalistic. Realistic. It’s got some lovely orchestral arrangements, gentle piano and soft acoustic guitar, then the percussion cuts in and it gets a little harder - ”All the plans we had together/ Up in smoke and gone forever” - and for a man who’s been through more than his fair share of divorces, there’s a pragmatism about what’s important: ”I don’t want the kids to suffer/ Can’t we talk to one another?” It’s truly a beautiful song, and was the first point in the album where I sat up and thought, yes this is quite possibly going to be a great album. And it is.

Many of the songs here trace moments and events in Stewart’s life, such as the aforementioned second track with his rise to fame, divorce in this one, and the reflecting on a love that could have been in “Brighton Beach”. Not one of my favourite songs on the album I must say; I find it a little dull and pedestrian, but not bad. Evokes those memories we all have about what if and wonder where he/she is now? Carried on nice acoustic guitar backed by some mournful violin, another fine orchestral outing. Things get back rocking then with “Beautiful Morning”, as Rod lets loose and just exults in the joy of living. It’s a simple song, but then it needs to be. This is no complicated lyric, no deep meaning of life stuff; it’s just something we can all relate to, that morning when you wake up, the sun streaming in your window, your bank account fat and your lover by your side and just think what a fantastic morning to be alive. I know exactly how he feels. Apart from the fat bank balance. And the lover by my side. And the sun. A real rocker, and one to make you come alive after the somewhat boring previous track.

Time doesn’t really hit that midpoint I often speak of, but there are weak tracks. Luckily, they come and go, and are followed by better ones, and the quality of the album only flags, if at all, momentarily before picking up again. As you might expect with all his songwriting expertise down the years, Rod pens every track, mostly with his producer Kevin Savigar, and occasionally other writers. All that is except one, which we’ll come to. “Live the Life” is a good track but it suffers from something that recurs through parts of latter half of the album, which is plagiarisation. The opening is a rip-off of his own song “Maggie May”, while the main melody recalls Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California”, the bridge to the chorus putting me in mind of Carole Bayer Sager. There’s just a lot of influences in the song, too many to allow it seem original. Even the sentiment expressed in it is somewhat tired and overused, but it’s not the worst song on the album. That’s probably held for the next one, and “Finest Woman” is Rod back to his old bad boy days, leering at the girls and flashing his, er, smile. It’s perhaps a little disappointing given the lessons he’s telling us through this music that he’s learned, but I suppose everyone needs to let their hair down once in a while. Still, it’s not for me; sort of mixture of rock, soul and bit of gospel. Uptempo certainly, just a weak track in my opinion. Some sweet brass in it and good female backing vocals, but I’m waiting for the title track.

And here it is. And man, was it worth waiting for! A slow, powerful ballad with very much gospel overtones, “Time” tells us all that we need to know when to move on, when it’s finally time to quit. ”Time” Rod advises us ”Waits for no-one/ That’s why I can’t wait on you.” A gorgeous organ intro, almost church-like with a lot of blues in it pulls in some fine piano and excellent backing vocals from the ladies. There are echoes of Country in the song too, blues and a bit of soul. Superb work on the organ and keyboards by his producer, and Savigar really testifies on the keys as Rod pours out his heart and soul. Talk about personal! Super little guitar solo, but again it’s almost note for note from Bon Jovi’s “All I Want is You”.

Rod has made no secret of his love of the music of Tom Waits, and the influence it’s had on his own music, and indeed he’s had two big hits with Waits songs. Here he takes a slightly lesser-known track, from the Mule Variations album, and does a great job with “Picture in a Frame”. I’ve never had an issue with his interpretation of Waits’ songs, and he doesn’t disappoint here either. For those who may not know it, it’s a simple, piano-led ballad telling the story of the realisation of the singer that his girlfriend means more to him than he had originally thought. Truth to tell, he also covers “Cold Water” but it’s a bonus track and I just don’t do those, so let me just say he also does a great job on that. “Sexual Religion” is another “old” Stewart style song, with Rod marvelling at the power a woman has over him, and what she can make him do.

There’s a certain sense of seventies ABBA in the song, with powerful production values and a strong female backing chorus, the track itself a mid-paced one as Stewart sings ”If there’s one thing I don’t understand/ It’s the power of a woman/ And the weakness of a man.” Yeah, and the rest of us, Rod! It’s kind of close to the general melody of his big hit “Do ya think I’m sexy”, but a much different song at the same time. More restrained and low-key is “Make love to me tonight”, in which Rod takes on the persona of a working-class grunt, facing the hard times but determined to make it once his girl is by his side. Sort of similar, lyrically is not musically, to “Livin’ on a Prayer” - wonder if Rod listens to Bon Jovi? On a bouncing, mostly acoustic rhythm, it’s an us-against-the-world song full of passion and optimism, and recalls some of Rod’s harder times, such as when he slept under the bridges in Paris while gigging, and it certainly speaks to the everyman in us all. Simple, perhaps simplistic, with a nice Celtic lilt to it, it’s hard not to be engaged by its almost blind, determined sense of hope.

That old bugbear however resurfaces in the closer, and it really is a pity because it’s such a beautiful song, and a perfect way to end a really strong album. Maybe I’m just being a pedant and overly critical, but listen to the melody of “Pure Love”, and if you know the song you can’t help but hear the 1952 classic “You Belong to Me”, not to mention that the opening intro is “Send in the Clowns”. But that aside, it’s a touching, emotional message to it would seem one of his daughters, a father’s advice, carried on gorgeous piano and violin, with a heartfelt vocal as Rod sings ”Don’t ask me now where all the time has gone/I’ve loved you since the minute you were born”. A truly stunning upsurge of orchestral strings near the end just paints the final stupendous layer on a finale to what is truly a remarkable album, and a real tribute to a man who has seen it all, done it all, and is, in the words of one of his contemporaries, still standing.


1. She Makes Me Happy
2. Can’t Stop Me Now
3. It’s Over
4. Brighton Beach
5. Beautiful Morning
6. Live the Life
7. Finest Woman
8. Time
9. Picture in a Frame
10. Sexual Religion
11. Make Love to Me Tonight
12. Pure Love

Look, you can all laugh: I’m used to that. People read a review of Andy Williams (not yet), Neil Diamond or Pixie Lott in my journal and make choking noises, and move on. Doesn’t bother me. But it’s sad if you avoid this album purely on the basis that it’s Rod Stewart. As I said, I’m no big fan but I was quite amazed by how mature and accomplished this album is, given that he could have just trundled out another greatest hits or even a by-the-numbers album of pop singles, paying others to write for him. He didn’t. This is, first and foremost, a personal account of where he has been, what he’s learned and how he’s dealt, in different ways, with different situations, to arrive where he is now.

If you leave your prejudices at the door and wipe that disparaging grin off your face long enough to give this album a chance, you may find that you’re pleasantly surprised. I know I was.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads

© 2003-2023 Advameg, Inc.