Black – Blind Faith


Like for so many others, Wonderful Life is a mainstay of not only all-time favourite albums but also our weekly listening pleasure at The RingMaster Review. Its creator Black, the musical non de plume of Colin Vearncombe, has continued to incite ears and the passions since that triumph’s release in 1987, through over ten studio albums under the Black moniker and the musician/songwriter’s his own name alone, yet still that album steals the show of our personal pleasures. Now though it has a rival in the shape of the magnetic seduction of Blind Faith, Vearncombe’s first release of new songs in six years. It is a melodic smoulder and emotional caress of thirteen diverse and captivating propositions which potently reminds us that their composer is still one of Britain’s most imaginative and persistently compelling songwriters and artists.

Blind Faith was co-written with long-time friend and musical sparring partner Calum MacColl, the son of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl and brother of the wonderful Kirsty. Recruiting a host of talented musicians to help its recording, and with Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile/Prefab Sprout) producing, Vearncombe brings all his emotively description skills to bear from the opening seconds of first track The Love Show. A sombre yet joyful acoustic melody hits ears first, swiftly courted by a kiss of strings and in turn the ever distinct voice of Vearncombe. In no time the track is a blossoming breeze of melodic enterprise, recalling the early days of Black whilst conjuring a new evocative croon in sound and texture. The melancholy of the song is gorgeous yet its atmosphere is simultaneously the complete opposite of that, warmth and tantalising lightness providing one endearing kiss on the senses.

BF-Front-Cover     The sensational start is continued by the vibrant saunter of Don’t Call Me Honey, a mix of country and folk revelry colluding in a catchy escapade swiftly in control of imagination and appetite. The swinging beats of drummer Liam Bradley are aligned to the slightly darker but no less energetic tones of bass from Simon Edwards, their combined magnetic spine the keenest lure in the dance of the song. The proposition’s riveting call is matched by the distinctly different Good Liar, a slow stroll of vocal reflection embraced by guitar bred melodies courtesy of MacColl and a mesmeric wash of keys cast by Mikey Rowe. Ears almost float in the croon of the song before being taken on a wonderful dramatic ride in Sleep Together. This treat has a melody rich hook which is like a fine wine on the creative menu of the song and just as potent on the senses as the real thing, additionally bewitching them in the eventful mesmerism already fuelling the captivation.

Womanly Panther has the same kind of theatre to it, this time in the shape of a siren-esque sixties flame. The imagination swiftly runs with the song’s suggestiveness as vocal harmonies are hugged by ever expressive strings. Thoughts conjure images of cosmopolitan temptresses on the French Riviera, a vision only encouraged by the tones and words of Vearncombe. It is another pinnacle in the increasingly thrilling Blind Faith and yet another unique proposal in its diversity, as indeed is Who You Are with its gentle embrace. Once more a whisper of nostalgia engages ears as the song’s chorus unveils a melody and vocal lure reminiscent of early Black enticements. Around this though there is a sultry climate which is almost surf rock like in a hazy complexion which has ears and emotions spellbound.

The following Sunflower is a slightly longer to ignite smoulder but from its first breath keys and Vearncombe’s tones cup ears in potent reflection before slipping away and being replaced by the just as emotively tenacious Not The Man. As it broadens its embrace, a more lively energy flows through the track’s sound and presence, and in turn the listener setting them up perfectly for the country rock spiced and new single Ashes Of Angels. Though another slimline song in textures, there is never a lack of thick melodic ingenuity and creative adventure to any Black song within Blind Faith, and equipped with a virulent contagion of vocal and musical hooks, the song sets itself up as just one more irresistible triumph.

The smoky emotion and tone of Stone Soup holds attention firmly next whilst the eloquent orchestral grace and provocative hues of When It’s Over has ears and thoughts bound with its contrast of soaring keys and strings against a grumbling bassline. Both though are over shadowed by the closing pair of Beautiful and Parade, the first, of course, living up to its title with a shimmering reflection of voice and guitar whilst the second unveils a celestial weave of melodies aligned to matching vocal prowess, the vocals of Vearncombe ever the strongest persuasive lure. It is a sensational close to an exceptional release which definitely flirts with the description classic.

Listening to Blind Faith brings back some of the same emotions felt listening to Wonderful Life way back in time and ever since, and that realising tingle of something special having just seduced ears and more. Colin Vearncombe’s first album is still the unrivalled Black album for us but Blind Faith is right there by its side as an essential proposition for all melodic rock/pop fans.

Blind Faith is available now via Nero Schwarz Limited @

RingMaster 01/06/2015

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Black – Wonderful Life Deluxe Edition


    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.


RingMaster 03/04/2013

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