Black – Wonderful Life Deluxe Edition

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    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.

www.colinvearncombe.com

9/10

RingMaster 03/04/2013

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The Lights: Days Don’t Get Me Far Enough Away

It is fair to say country music is a genre which gets short thrift here, its sounds as appealing as a salt rub on the eye ball. Despite that we have to say that Days Don’t Get Me Far Enough Away the new single from UK band The Lights, is one rather enjoyable piece of pop which had us humming its infectious charm throughout the day upon encountering its melodic enterprise.

Following on from their acclaimed album Teenager of the Century, the single completes a year for the band which has seen them build on the success of the full length release with successful festival and gig appearances as well as enthused play across national radio shows. October saw the quintet from Birmingham sign a deal with Integrity Records for the release of the new single to complete twelve months which could be said to have been a whirlwind of endeavour and positivity.

The single opens with vibrant beats from Woz Meadows, rhythms which have a unique swing to their gait, and crystalline guitar teases from Dan Tombs. It is an engaging entrance soon elevated by the wonderful emotive vocals of Liz Sheils perfectly supported by the warm tones of acoustic guitarist Shaun Kelly and the caring compelling bass caresses of Gaz Worton. It all combines for a heated romp equipped with a western twang and passionate breath. It is without doubt the dazzling voice of Sheils which steals the show but the song and sounds wrap around her aural heart with tenderness, great craft, and just a glimpse of mischief to their teasing presence. It is a rich and pleasing sound driven by a contagious pop essence which will easily delight many more than just genre fans.

Accompanied by a fun video featuring DJs Janice Long, Alex Lester, Jeremy Vine, and Chris Hawkins, Days Don’t Get Me Far Enough Away, whilst not probably a song which will take precedence over other personal taste pleasing sounds, certainly will not outstay its welcome when it does get its chance to play within these ears. For country pop fans though, The Lights have a real treat in store.

https://www.facebook.com/theLightsUK

RingMaster 23/11/2012

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Lizzyspit: Home/ Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

It was last year that Lizzyspit or Elizabeth Knights to her Mum, first captured our attention with her outstanding EP I’m Alive You Know, a release which enchanted not only us but also the likes of Emily Sandé, Janice Long, and Steve Lamacq, and a growing wave of new fans. Since then she has seemed relatively quiet though that is probably down to the fact she has relocated across the globe. The London girl has gone and moved to South West Australia, and there we were about to offer her an all expenses slap up meal, oh well. Now settled she has returned with her acoustic guitar primed and ever captivating voice in full song with a double A-sided single Home/ Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.

The two tracks were recorded last year before Lizzyspit made her big move and were songs which found an eager reception when introduced in her live shows previously. Teaming up with producer/designer Matt Schonborn who worked on her previous single Talk You Down, she recorded the pair of songs just before 2011 closed her eyes and it has to be said they are arguably the best thing she has done to date.

Home is a song about a surfer who is prevented from going home to the ocean by his life in the city, the track visiting the emotions behind the situation and its developing journey to a heart fulfilling conclusion. The song can be translated to any personal life where one is prevented or removed from where the love and heart truly is and makes for a thoughtful and provocative piece of songwriting. Lizzyspit caresses the ear with her again and to be honest now expected exceptional vocals and emotive grace as she offers  understanding and comfort to the focus of the song and any personal issue that it maybe incites. It is a wonderful song which confirms her as one of the most engaging and impressive indie folk artists in the world.

Obviously Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves is a cover of the Cher classic and what a fine version it is. The fully impressive thing about it though is that Lizzyspit has not taken the easy route as most artists seem to do and simply covered it. She has turned it into her own song, reinvented it with an emotional and haunting breath to create an easy rival in quality and power to the original. With absorbing harmonies and an electric presence behind her acoustic tenderness and deeply expressive vocals, the song is immense and further unveils the imaginative and creative craft of Lizzyspit.

Released June 25th this wonderful single should elevate her into a wider realm of recognition and acclaim.

To mark the release, Lizzyspit is giving fans the opportunity to win a personally written song. Fans can tweet the singer (@Lizzyspit) their reactions to the new record Home/Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. One winner will be selected at random and the song, when written, will be videoed and uploaded to her social networks.

Lizzyspit will be back in the UK this September, and will be performing a series of gigs, live in the flesh. Watch this space for further details.

RingMaster 18/06/2012

 

 

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