Ever since its release in 1987, the debut album Wonderful Life from Black has held a grip on our passions here to lure more than the occasional dip into its emotive and eventful charms over the years. It was a release which seemed to be hit or miss for each individual and probably never really found the depth of success it deserved, though it and its notable title track single, certainly was not lacking in strong popularity just not to the heights one expected at the time. The re-release of the album in this deluxe edition hopefully will open up a new hungry awareness for album and artist, and quite likely more use of that single.
Black was the persona of singer songwriter Colin Vearncombe who went on to record a further three albums as this project, two more along with Wonderful Life for A&M Records and another, Are We Having Fun Yet? on his own Nero Schwarz label in 1993. Arguably for personal tastes the subsequent albums never found the heights of his first but still confirmed the artist as one of the most compelling and emotively instinctive songwriters across the eighties and nineties, with the man still igniting the appetite with his work under his own name ever since. The re-release of Wonderful Life offers not only the full album but a second CD containing the original version of his most successful single, a selection of B-sides, and a quartet of songs recorded for a 1986 Janice Long session. The package also includes a specially commissioned interview with Vearncombe in the album liner notes and is a package which ignites strong nostalgia and still smouldering fires.
The album begins with what was to be its most potent voice, the title track. It is a song which originally was released in 1986 on independent label Ugly Man, that version appearing on the second CD. Re-worked for Wonderful Life it reached the top 10 following previous single Sweetest Smile from the album into the same success, and has since received multiple cover versions by numerous artists and appearances within adverts, TV programs and films. With seductive warmth and melancholic kisses enveloping the ear there is no surprise to its popularity and growth as a presence in UK pop, though arguably it is not the strongest track on the album. Its gentle moody persuasion and uncomplicated walk across the senses made the song instantly accessible and persuasive, its touch leaving a melodic residue on body and emotions which still sparks up active feelings even now.
Songs like Everything’s Coming Up Roses with its feisty rhythmic temptation, golden ABC like melodic strikes and compelling emotive narrative, and Sometimes For The Asking with its steely guitar voice and electro resonance as well as additional sirenesque female harmonies, both bring a richer soak of emotive elegance and triumphant energy especially in the second of the pair, to entrap the passions with greater contagious craft and imagination. This was electro and heated pop at its best with the skill to temper all aspects into a perfectly inciting wash.
It is probably fair to say that some tracks like Finder, Paradise, and I Just Grew Tired did not stray far from the core of his invention at the time to lie in the shade of other songs on the release but it is also hard to deny that they also offered an impossible to resist melodic hand which was soon eagerly grasped by thoughts and heart. For each less dramatic moment though there was always a fire of enterprise in the likes of I’m Not Afraid with is shards of horn delight and anthemic call, and the sultry embrace of Blue, a song which leaves tingles and raging aural hormones at large in its wake.
The biggest triumphs come later in the album with the sensational Just Making Memories, a song with elements of The Cure to its hypnotic bass prowl, the deliciously tantalising Leave Yourself Alone, and the dramatically engaging rock fuelled It’s Not You Lady Jane, a song which has blood coursing through veins with greedy energy. They all trigger greater flames in a fire of ardour and pleasure which erupted with the opening whisper of the title track, and completed what is still a tremendously evocative and thrilling album.
The second disc begins with the previously mentioned original recording of Wonderful Life, a version easily on par with the recognisable track. Following songs all engage with unreserved enterprise even if some shine brighter than others. Songs such as Birthday Night and Dagger Reel have a Spandau Ballet whisper to their stances and across many of the songs thoughts of other bands ring out, something never apparent on the actual album, though it is not anything other than a spark to interest and intrigue admittedly. Everything’s Coming Up Roses (The Fairly Mental Mix) shouts Paul Haig as it bubbles and simmers upon the senses with flushes of molten passion in places whilst Have It Your Own Way has elements of Echo and the Bunnymen to it, and Life Calls a more than pleasing Teardrop Explodes swagger. Another highlight on the disc is the Scott Walker toned Had Enough making a quartet of tracks which especially leave a deep satisfaction.
The re-release is a great opportunity for those new to Black and Vearncombe to discover some essential and classically shaped pop music and for those in the know to discover some new treats and bask in the nostalgia of one special album.
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