Prefab Sprout


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1977-82)

- Martin McAloon -- bass

- Paddy McAloon -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, synthesizers

- Michael Salmon -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 2  (1982-83)

- Martin McAloon -- bass

- Paddy McAloon -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, synthesizers

- Michael Salmon -- drums, percussion

NEW - Wendy Smith -- vocals

 

  line up 3  (1982-92)

NEW - Neil Conti -- drums, percussion (replaced Michael Salmon)

- Martin McAloon -- bass

- Paddy McAloon -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, synthesizers

- Wendy Smith -- vocals

 

 

 

 

  line up (1997)

- Martin McAloon -- bass

- Paddy McAloon -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, synthesizers

- Paul Smith -- drums, percussion

- Wendy Smith -- vocals

 

- David Brewis -- guitar, mandolin

- Alan Clark -- groan

- Jim Hornsby -- mandolin, guitar

- Calum Malcolm -- keyboards

- Martin McAloon -- bass

- Paddy McAloon -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, synthesizers

- Paul Smith -- drums, percussion

- Tommy Smith -- sax 

- Wendy Smith -- vocals

- Frazer Spiers -- harmonica

- Martin Taylor -- guitar

 

 

 

- Level 42 (Neil Conti)

- Paddy McAloon (solo efforts)

- Swimmer Leon (Michael Salmon)

 

 


 

Genre: r

Rating: 2

Title:  From Langley Par To Memphis

Company: epic

Catalog:  D
Year:
 1988

Country/State: S

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1

Price: $15.00

Okay, unlike '60s and '70s music, for the most part '80s bands still haven't reached the point where they're being rediscovered and considered cool by the next generation.  Shame, since Prefab Sprout is one of the acts that deserves rediscovery.

 

 

 

 

 

"From Langley Park To Memphis" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The King of Rock 'n; Roll   (Paddy McAloon) - 

The song was released as the album's second 45:

2.) Cars and Girls   (Paddy McAloon) - 

Okay, it was apparently written as a dig at what the band saw as Bruce Springsteen's mid-career world view (some things hurt more than cars and girls), but seriously, this may be the best song McAloon ever wrote ...   A melody that was like a perfect summer morning - bright, whispy, and full of promise.  YouTube has a 1988 lip synching performance on Irish Television's Late, Late Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjkNgje_joM   The song was tapped as the album's leadoff single:  

- 1988's 'Cars and Girls' b/w 'Vendetta' (Epic catalog number 34-07922)

3.) I Remember That   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:14   rating: *** stars

Yeah, the chorus was patently sweet, but elsewhere 'I Remember That' found Paddy McAloon and company playing it too adult contemporary-ish for my tastes.  And by the time they'd discovered their soul groove, the song was almost over. Curiously, even though it wasn't originally released as a single, in 1993 it surfaced as a 45 released in conjunction with the band's best of "A Life of Surprises: The Best of Prefab Sprout" package.  Epic also financed a promotion video for the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7VurhK2kos 

4) Enchanted   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:47   rating: **** stars

'Enchanted' was one of those songs that doesn't instantly strike you as being funky, but kicked along by   Paul Wicken's stunning synthesizer bass line, assorted synthesizer bleeps, and some of Paddy's slinkiest vocals, it's a track that's almost impossible to sit still through.  You had to wonder how this one was skipped over as a single.

5.) Nighintgales   (Paddy McAloon) - 5:51   rating: **** stars

Okay, 'Nightingales' is a song I really wanted to dislike, but somehow managed to overcome my initial feelings about it.  Maybe it was the Stevie Wonder harmonica solo ...   The track was released as the 4th single in the UK and Spain.

- 1988's 'Nightingales' (edit) b/w 'Nightingales' (full version) (Kitchenware catalog number SK39)

 

(side 2)

1.) Hey Manhattan!   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:45  rating; ** stars

I've always taken it as a love song to the city (not sure about the JFK references).  I'm not the only person to hear echoes of Steely Dan in the jazzy 'Hey Manhattan!'.  The problem is it's bad Steely Dan - way too orchestrated and MOR-ish.  Even having Pete Townshend on acoustic guitar couldn't save it ...   Here's a link to the promotional video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDDJPbWq22E  The song was released as the third single:

 

  7" format:

- 1988's 'Hey Manhattan!' b/w 'Tornado' (Kitchenware catalog number SK 38)

  12" format:

- 1988's 'Hey Manhattan!' / 'Tornado' b/w 'Hey Manhattan! / 'Donna Summer' (Kitchenware catalog number SKGT 38)

2.) Knock On wood   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:15

3.) The Golden Calf   (Paddy McAloon) - 5:05   rating: **** stars

For folks who didn't think they could rock ...  Is it just me, or did McAllon sound like Jeff Lynn on this one? Another track that was released as a European single.  In the UK it was released as the album's 5th single in both 7" and 12" variants:

- 1989's 'The Golden Calf' b/w 'Venus of the Soup Kitchen' (Kitchenware catalog number SK41)

- 1989's 'The Golden Calf' b/w 'Bonny (live' and 'Venus of the Soup Kitchen' (Kitchenware catalog number SKX41)  And thanks to YouTube there's a promotional video as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SvzhKltoAU 

4.) Nancy (Let Your Hair Down for Me)  (Paddy McAloon) - 4:01   rating: **** stars

Always wondered what it was about, but for some reason the silky msooth 'Nancy Let Your Hair Down for Me' always makes me draw comparisons to Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  Another track that I probably would deny appreciating in public, but stands as a guilty pleasure.  

5.) The Venus of the Soup Kitchen   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:29   rating: *** stars

Another one of McAloon's patented melodies, devoted fans will know the album title was drawn from the lyrics, though after all these years I still don't have a clue what he was crooning about.  The late Andrea Crouch and the Andrea Crouch singers provided the odd Gospel backing.

 

 

EPs never caught on the US market, but were popular in the UK.  "Nightingale" was released as part of a four track UK EP:

"Nightingales" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Nightingales (edit)   (Paddy McAloon) - 

 

(side 2)

1.) Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)    (Paddy McAloon) - 

2.) The Devil Has All the Best Tunes    (Paddy McAloon) - 

 

 

 

 

 'Cars and Girls', 'The King of Rock 'n. Still, while ambitious in both concept and execution, From Langley Park to Memphis pales in comparison to its masterful predecessor Two Wheels Good -- a shortcoming acknowledged by Prefab Sproutthemselves with the title of their next album, Jordan: The Comeback.

 

When I was only a toddler, I was one of the many children who had a strange and near-universal fascination with the subject of trains. Much to my extremely young delight, there existed a retired caboose on a lot near the entrance of my grandparents’ then (and still now) subdivision. I’m too old and senile today in my first year of adulthood to remember its purpose, but I would fascinatingly gaze at it every time we passed by in order to make it to grandma and pop pop’s house.

At an age once again undetermined by my current self, there eventually came a time where we passed through the familiar road to find that the caboose had been removed; I remember being livid and upset at the fact that I’d never gotten to see it beyond some auto-protected glances, but like most children, my fascination found something new to latch onto. In the direction of the spot where the caboose had been, a road was being constructed into the thicket of trees that lay beyond. From this road, you could see it wind into the dark forest, but the turn was then far too sharp to see beyond the wood, and I consequently had no idea where it led. 

The allure of the caboose was promptly defeated with this strange, ominous woodland trail. I’d lay in bed and dream about all the possible things it could lead to, and I had a vivid enough imagination to make myself believe that it would bring its traveler to something insidious. Of course, young boys tend to find dangerous and evil dwellings to be exciting, and I thought upon this mysterious road with the utmost of excellence.

∞ ∞ ∞

Today, I found myself reveling in the sound of Prefab Sprout as I made my now-annual walk through my grandparents’ neighborhood. Over the years, my preexisting love for scenic walks alongside the acquired fascination with places to extreme nostalgic locations has tempted me to explore one of the only places I’ve access to left in the world of my ever-deteriorating childhood. As somebody who had always been brought to their home through mutual transportation, I had no acquirement of wanderlust for this seemingly loving environment, and it wasn’t until my later years that I decide to traverse these parts feverishly. A gander at the photography section of my harddrive would reveal a great many pictures of the streets and waterfronts that fill this area.

This day had been one anticipated by me for several weeks now, as I had realized that I could fully mirror the walk that I had at this occasion last year: every year, my grandmother hosts a pre-Christmas Christmas gathering, and only last year or so did I realize that I wanted to see the Christmas lights. Christmas decoration is something that I wouldn’t say I detest, but I find it to be rather old in nearly every situation I face it in; the sudden fascination that came with last year’s yearning to view them was, to me, a surprise. Still, it was probably the contents of what I had in my pocket that had me wanting some forty minutes or so to myself, and it was that very same motivation that brought me out on this night. That entity is From Langley Park to Memphis.

I thought about putting a paragraph in about my adoration and constant reverence for the band that is Prefab Sprout, but feel free to check out my other works for some of that; I would hate to waste anybody’s time on such redundant nonsense. If you know my musical preferences, however, you probably know that I’ve an esteemed love for Paddy McAloon and his dreamy vocal chords, and the sophisticated dreamscapes that he fashions around his words are something to be called upon as truly sublime. I’m somebody who is willing to put aside personal differences for the sake of good music, and I can safely say that my first Prefab Sprout record helped me stand up to that test with flying colors. Now, I’m four records of theirs in and I’m loving every second of each.

Shit, I just did what I said I wouldn’t.

I left from the house exactly as I had last year, and I trawled through the suburban sprawl of familiarity exactly as I always have. I took the same route I did last year, letting each and every note of beautiful synth hit me like a rollercoaster and allowing the subtle ‘80s production of the record to help me note things I hadn’t in my previous listen: when has any musician released a record of catchy hit after catchy hit after catchy hit? Even Michael Jackson probably loathingly brooded as the face of McAloon appeared before him. The lack of trepidation and outright openness that this record contains is exquisite, and I found myself weaving in and out of the roads and parked cars with conviction. Every little thing I did in this moment mattered (but then again, isn’t that true of every moment?)

Finally, I made my way to as far back as I had the last time, and I begin to make the trip across to where I’d eventually be brought full circle. It was only upon getting to the large lakeside road that I found myself looking right instead of left, and I spied a road that I had never seen before. The pavement looked freshly-tarred even in the overly-bright, glaring streetlights ahead, and the presumed condominiums were completely foreign to my mind. Had these always been back here? Before I knew it, I was walking in their direction and racking my mind in anticipation of whatever it was that was coming.

I found myself being led now to as far as the free road would take me, and a gated community barred me from going any further. I was about to turn around when I spied the gravel road that jutted west; looking down it, I saw not a single light and no sidewalk, but such a thing wasn’t going to stall me. I took off down the road at an exhilarating pace. From Langley Park to Memphis perfectly swells on as my darkened environment was enlightened by the bliss of its essence. I felt myself contemplating all sorts of ideas about light and how it doesn’t have to solely exist in the visible form, and how audible light (though silly in concept) appeared to be wholly present in the dark and now twisting road in this thicket of tall trees. I found myself slightly apprehensive, yet not in the slightest bit afraid. I was encapsulated in darkness, yet fully embracing light. I was… far too sentimental and pedantic then, and it certainly hasn’t worn off now. Hey, good music can do that to you…

I finally emerged triumphantly from the wooded alcove that had just tried to compel me into everlasting existentialism, and the look of joy on my face must have been moronic to the outside viewer. I had just propelled myself from the road that my childhood had so often fabricated decadent and mythic legends around.  The place that I had known for my entire life, yet only visited on foot about an hour ago, had been burdened with my selfish presence for that stretch of walk.

As I walked up to the main road, I found myself looking silently at the dead patch of nothing where the caboose had been a decade before. In this very moment, music had never sounded sweeter than From Langley Park to Memphis had right then in my ears.

 

The special thing about From Langley Park to Memphis is its warm and highly musical atmosphere. “All my lazy teenage boasts are now high precision ghosts and they're coming round the track to haunt me. When she looks at me and laughs I remind her of the facts I'm the king of rock 'n' roll completely – up from suede shoes to my baby blues, hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque”. And both male and female vocals sound very harmonious and romantic. “Before you say you're lucky, before you say he's good, knock on wood. Broke your promise, broke your word, he's climbing up a ladder. Heaven had begun, he's found another angel, she'll take him down a rung or two”. Thus Prefab Sprout come forth like the last romantics of the new wave.

 

 

Boy this kind of thing is an acquired taste for me.
"I Remember That" sounds like R&B or Steely Dan, but without the qualities of those things that I like. Or with some other qualities that aren't as appealing. I dunno.
It did grow on me through the course of listening to it, but still not something I'd listen to all the time.
The opening & closing songs are delightfully strange songs though.

 

his album is just like When the World Knows Your Name - sophisti-pop group releases their best album, then releases this highly anticipated follow-up with a picture of them on the cover. It starts with just about the cheesiest and dorkiest track ever (one is "The King..." and the other is "Queen"... coincidences abound), which JUST ABOUT makes you turn it off, until the rest of the tracks come in and reassure you that it's a decent album. This one even ends with one of their weirdest tunes. A nice album but I think I'll stick to Steve McQueen and Jordan. The cover art looks like it's already on a scuffed CD in a 99c bin. Look at how washed out their pants look. The art already looks bootlegged. It looks like a Spice Girls album. What the hell.

Also I only checked this out because that musical Vito Genovese has a big personal connection to it.

 

I'll probably be lynched for this, so I'll just get it out of the way early: I have no idea why Steve McQueen is bolded on this website. When I was just discovering the band (and while I was still letting whether or not an item was bolded influence my music-buying choices) it was a turn-off for me in some places. It's least representative of the band's sound for me, and actually turned me off from Paddy and Friends for quite some time. (Opinion subject to change of course; McQueen deterred me like Kryptonite but it's not unlikely I'll revisit it and change my mind)

From Langley Park to Memphis is Paddy McAloon's full embrace of Americana. A strong American theme runs through this album, verging on tourist fanboyism. But he pulls it off, more or less despite himself.

If anyone's ever read TvTropes, they'll instantly recognize what I mean when I say that Prefab Sprout's Paddy McAloon is a prime example of "I Am the Band". He provides main songwriting credits, and that Sprout trademark: theatrics, androgynous vocals, odd song structures and harmonizations, and general sugary aesthetic. Nobody else could front Prefab because Paddy IS Prefab (as a result, I'll be talking about him a lot. I apologize in advance). This band is about as lollipop-like as you can get short of a toothache. Twee, twee, twee as all hell. However, there's something that saves them from the bland, dentist-office ether that so many other bands in the "sophisticated" department such as China Crisis or the particularly pompous Scritti Politti seem to suffer from: an immediately recognizable identity. 

I'm not sure how many people have actually taken the time to analyze this band's attitude, but judging from interviews, Paddy practically is the physical embodiment of his music: loud-mouthed, Irish, tongue-in-cheek, cheesy, romantic, down-to-earth, and just pleasant.. All of those characteristics apply to his music. He's 50's sensibility meets 80's romanticism. He's camp. I mean... just listen to the opener "The King of Rock 'n' Roll", with its "La la la"s, Prince-esque funky synths, production from Dolby, and the unforgettable "Hot Dog!/Jumping frog/Albuquerque". I mean, for the love of God... that is just shameless.

What makes this band what it is - is Paddy and his childlike motivations. He just goes for what he wants to do; jumps right in... no foolin' 'round. He projects interesting ideas and writes about intriguing characters in unusual situations. I'd almost go so far as to compare him to McCartney in the sense that, he shares that similar tendency to be theatrical, alongside his "pure" pop sensibilities and writings about the mundane. that - that is what prevents me from gagging from the sheer amount of metaphorical Splenda being poured down my throat. Well, almost.

Regardless of "liking it a lot", the album isn't beside its faults. I find it to be a generally hit-and-miss affair; but when it hits, it's nice. "Cars and Girls" is the song Dexy's Midnight Runners never wrote. Needless to say, I consider it to be nothing but pure pop bliss. It's got some great hooks, the lyrics stick in the mind, and the backing vocals by Wendy Smith help more than they do harm. "Nightingales" opens like it's just about to have two generic late-80's/early-90's crooners slather a female-male duet all over it, but it actually turns out to be a pretty gorgeous and wistful ballad. "Hey Manhattan!" lays a few too many Broadway theatrics on me for me to really give much more than a passing acknowledgement. "The Venus of the Soup Kitchen" meanders too much for my liking, and I'm not a big big fan of the pseudo-choir in the song's climax. "I Remember That" stars Paddy McAloon as the (late) great Sir Paul McCartney. Really, I don't know how he got away with this one. It drags on for far too long to justify its length. "Knock on Wood" (obviously, about the dangers of love and loss) is easily my favorite, the groove is easy and effortless. The only turkey that stands out to me is "The Golden Calf", and I'll let you listen to that one to figure out why for yourself.

In conclusion, I'd say that if you're a hopeless romantic, and you're not looking to raise your expectations any higher than need be... be sure to check this one out. It's not so much an album as much as it is a collection of songs, but cherry picking the highlights off this one won't hurt. But definitely do not go anywhere near this band if this isn't your cup of earl grey. But if you do - be sure to hit up Jordan next, as that's Paddy at his bizarre and campy best. Unfortunately, his absolute best is not to be found here.

Highlights: "Cars and Girls", "Nightingales", "Knock on Wood"

 

Opening with two of the band's greatest singles - the sleek, sexy Cars and Girls and, of course, the gloriously absurd The King of Rock 'n' Roll - From Langley Park to Memphis is sophisti-pop of the breeziest, smoothest variety. The thing which saves it from reverting into soulless easy listening pap is that there's this compelling air of sincerity to it; Paddy McAloon delivers the vocals with a real sense of emotional verisimilitude and the album feels real and alive to an extent which belies the occasionally rather plastic production. Admittedly the album does begin to bog down after the opening numbers - Nightingales outlasts its welcome a little in particular - but it's still a great effort and when it's on form there's nothing better. (And I can't listen to the opening track without wanting to skip around and sing along to the backing vocal.)

 

At the date it was released, I was truly disappointed with "From Langley Park to Memphis" and in many times I considered this Prefab Sprout's worst body of work. I remember saying "they sold their souls to the americans, damn!". Two decades passed and I must recognize one thing: the album aged well, and appart one misstep ("The Golden Calf"), it is a charming late 80's album, when the world was dangerously drowning into nightmares like Metallica and the Grunge dullness. Period thing, thankfully, and to be called 'period' isn't a bad thing. 

The erudite Sprouts (or should I say the erudite Paddy McAloon and cohorts?) on the way to stardom (and they got that at the time!) and rock & roll way of life? The educated and musically skilled Mr. McAloon doing Mainstream Rock, after a handful of superb albums following Steely Dan instructions according to pop music? In part yes, they momentarily sold up their souls to compose "From Langley Park to Memphis". In a certain way, they didn't recovered and since then never released an album like the first four. Paddy McAllon reconverted to the hermit of his own land, the rural northern England, collecting thousands and thousands of his never recorded songs. 

The ghosts of Brian Wilson and Steely Dan are still here, foolishly dancing beyond a cinematographic american Utopia, with all the cliches of a whealthy country. Once there was Faron Young and the rural escapade, now is Manhattan with a line of skyscrapers. Lush life! The sound is lushly in fact, there are hints of Lounge music before it turned to a 90's fashion, white gospel handing with The Wizard of Oz, in sum a sophisticated Adult Oriented Rock to people who were teenagers in the seventies. 

Not their best work, as I said, but still a worthy album, softly reflecting the sunlight of an epoch...

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Andromeda Heights

Company: Kitcheware

Catalog9075945951 5
Year:
 1997

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): NM / NM

Comments: sealed copy; re-mastered

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 30980

Price: $40.00

 

In the seven years following the release of "Jordan: The Comeback" and Prefab Sprout's next studio album, McAloon endured extended creative issues with Sony (label executives were reportedly less than excited by the planned follow-up "Let's Change the World with Music"), a period of music burnout and several years working on a sprawling, complex concept piece tentatively entitled "Earth the Story So Far".

 

Reality in the form of funding and time constraints ultimately saw Prefab Sprout returned to the airwaves with 1997's "Andromeda Heights".  While billed as a Prefab release, this seemed much like a Paddy McAloon solo effort.  McAloon produced the album and was responsible for penning all eleven tracks.  Add to that original drummer Neil Conti did not participate (replaced by Paul Smith) and singer Wendy Smith was largely absent.  Apparently conceived as concept album, the plotline was lost to my ears.  In spite of the lengthy layoff, McAloon sounded in good form and while the collection had more than it's share of moments, it suffered from an overabundance of ballads.  Side one alone featured four ballads, the exceptions being the singles 'Electric Guitars' and 'A Prisoner of the Past'.  That carried over to side two which featured another five ballads - 'The Fifth Horseman' being the exception.   I'll admit that I love a good ballad as much as anyone and there were plenty here (check out the gorgeous 'A Prisoner of the Past' and 'Steal Your Past'), but after a while there was a certain sounds-the-same effect across these grooves and the overabundance of heart-on-my-sleeve sentiments was overwhelming. With quite a bit of promotional support, though no tour, the album actually sold well in the UK, hitting # 7 on the charts, where it also spun off two mid-charting singles.  Always loved Annie Magill's cover art.

 

"Andromeda Heights" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Electric Guitars   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:41  rating: **** stars

Isn't it a dream most boys have?  A sweet performance built on one of McAloon's prettiest melodies and a set of interesting lyrics.  The song was released as the album's second CD single:

 

 

- 1989's 'Electric Guitars', 'Dragons' and 'The End of the Affair' (Kitchenware catalog number SKCD 071)

 

There's also a cute promotional single: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-KIHpU2Ly8

 

 

 

 

2.) A Prisoner of the Past   (Paddy McAloon) - 5:01  rating: **** stars

'A Prisoner of the Past' opened up with a Phil Spector wall-of-sound vibe and unwrapped itself to be another one of his standout reflections on the power and pain of love.  I hate the melody because it simply won't leave my head whenever I hear it.  The tune was tapped as the album's leadoff single, released in CD and cassette formats and was accompanied by a promotional video.

 

 

- 1989's 'A Prisoner of the Past' (radio edit) / 'A Prisoner of the Past' (album version) / 'Just because I Can' and 'Where the Heart Is' (Kitchenware catalog number SKCD 070)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlWPvaevTCI

 

 

 

3.) The Mystery of Love   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:37  rating: *** stars

'The Mystery of Love' was another pretty, but under whelming ballad.  A little too Bacharach-David MOR for McAloon's own good.

4.) Life's a Miracle   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:44  rating: *** stars

The lyrics were clearly heartfelt, touching and thought provoking (words we should all strive to live by), but they were buried in another ballad that was pretty but just kind of blurred together with the previous track.

5.) Anne Marie   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:35  rating: *** stars

Yet another pretty ballad, though this one lacked your typical McAloon killer melody ...  Nice acoustic guitar solo ...  Stay away from married women ...  Stay away from glockenspiel solos ...

6.) Whoever You Are   (Paddy McAloon) - 2:47  rating: *** stars

So why not end the side with a pretty ballad?

 

(side 2)

1.) Steal Your Thunder   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:41  rating: **** stars

And just when I bitched about the overabundance of ballads, along comes another one that makes me regret my complaining - 'Steal Your Thunder'.  "I might get lucky and roll a six, there is a chance I'll get lucky and see lightening strike twice."  What a great line.  Add in some nice Stevie Wonder-styled harmonica and one of the prettiest sax solos I've ever heard (courtesy of Tommy Smith) and this was another album highlight.

2.) Avenue of Stars   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:59  rating: **** stars

The heavily orchestrated 'Avenue of Stars' has always reminded me of something a '60s big band might have recorded for a film soundtrack.  Not sure why, but I really liked this one and the opening instrumental section is simply spellbinding. 

3.) Swans   (Paddy McAloon) - 2:36  rating: *** stars

Interesting lyric seemingly commenting on faithfulness, or lack thereof.  Wonder who else but McAloon come up with an analogy like this ...

4.) The Fifth Horseman   (Paddy McAloon) -  4:42  rating: **** stars

Guess I'd never thought of love as joining the Biblical apocalypse alone with death, war, the antichrist and famine ...  Awesome tune with one of those melodies that McAloon seemed to so effortlessly toss out.  It should  have been the album's first single.

5.) Weightless   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:36  rating: **** stars

Dreamy melody with some awesome synthesizers and a fascinating lyric that was was worth hearing just for the references to Yuri Gagarin ...

6.) Andromeda Heights   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:04  rating: *** stars

Thanks to Tommy Smith's sax solo, the title track opened up sound like something off a Gerry Rafferty album.  Almost a waltz, it was another extremely pretty selection, but by this point I was ballad burned out.  I believe McAloon named his recording studio Andromeda. 


 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Let's Change the World with Music

Company: Kitchenware/Sony

CatalogKWLP41-10
Year:
 2019

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: sealed copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 30980

Price: $60.00

 

Somewhat of a come back release, 2009's "Let There Be Music" marked Prefab Sprout's first studio album since 2001's "The Gunman and Other Stories".  If you want to talk about a collection with a tortured birth, then here's a good one to start with.  Front man Paddy McAloon had written the majority of the eleven tracks in the 1992 timeframe, intending them for Prefab Sprout's follow-on to 1990's "Jordan: The Comeback".   The demos were presented to Sony Music, but label executives were less than excited by the results.  Having presented 14 demos, Sony management apparently wanted McAloon to cull down the number of tracks for the forthcoming release.  McAloon walked away with the understanding the label wanted him to focus on writing new material based on two or three of the ideas reflected in the demos.  Needless to say, the two sides never cleared up the misunderstanding.  Over the next year and a half  McAloon went back into the studio writing taking the song "Earth: The Story so Far" and expending it to a 30 concept piece.  By the time the two sides cleared up their misunderstandings, McAloon had moved on, recording new material that hit the market in the form of 1997's "Andromeda Heights" and various follow-ups.  These songs stayed on the shelf until 2009 when at the suggestion of long time manager Keith Armstrong and looking for some income, McAloon resurrected them, dropping the title track and adding material he'd originally written for other artists ('Ride' was recorded by Australian singer Wendy Matthews, Francis Ruffelle had recorded 'God Watch Over You')..

 

Recorded without the rest of the band (McAloon responsible for all of the instrumentation), the eleven performance were self-produced in McAloon's home studio.  I'm probably reading too much into it, but the given the title and the numerous songs with music oriented lyrics, the collection seemed to have a modest concept feel - perhaps the joys and redemptive power of the art form.  The album also sported a modest secular feel (check out tracks like 'Ride' and 'Earth: The Story So Far). It was an in-your-face type of bible thumping, rather a subtle, thoughtful approach.  Regardless of whether it was a concept album or McAloon's "Christian" album, to my ears the results were thoroughly enjoyable; occasionally matching the creative heights of the band's earlier heyday.  One of the few albums in my collection where I enjoyed virtually ever track (the lone exception being 'Meet the new Mozart').  McAloon's voice remained in fine form and while the collection occasionally suffered from a mid-'90s sound (some of the synth patterns were definitely dated), on song after song McAloon displayed his unabashed talents for crafting mesmerizing melodies and thought provoking lyrics ('God Watch Over You' and 'Sweet Gospel Music').  I'm probably alone in this corner, but I'd say this is my favorite Prefab Sprout collection.

 

"Let's Change the World with Music" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Let There Be Music   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:44  rating: **** stars

Hum, I never would have expected a Prefab Sprout album to start out with a religious hip hop segment ...  Momentarily jarring, but it made sense in the overall scheme of things.  You just have to marvel at his ability to toss off gorgeous melodies like this one.  The track was briefly released as a promo CD single:

- 1997's 'Let There Me Music' (Sony - no catalog number)

 

2.) Ride   (Paddy McAloon) -  4:04    rating: **** star

McAloon's secular album?  Well, judging by lyrics like "Ride, ride home to Jesus, head held high" you could easily make that connection.  And if you did and found some degree of comfort in the results, what's the harm?  And if you thought it was just a good pop song with a wild synthesizer line ... what's the harm?   Either way, just enjoy the four minutes of bliss.

3.) I Love Music   (Paddy McAloon)  4:49    rating: **** stars

Any other performer and I would have just lifted the needle and moved on to the next tune ...  But there was just something magnet in McAloon's honey dipped voice and this breezy, lounge act tune.  The bass line was awesome and the nod to Chic always makes me smile.

4.) God Watch Over You   (Paddy McAloon) -  4:33   rating: ***** stars

I'll be the first to admit that I've been very blessed in my life.  I frequently wonder why I've been given a wonderful family; a job I like, and a sense of physical, mental and spiritual comfort.  While I seldom understand the challenges, opportunities, or experiences I'm confronted with, I try to appreciate them all. Admittedly, some experiences are better than others, but they all seem to have some purpose - what those purposes may be is part of the mystery.  It may have something to do with the fact that when you turn 60, you suddenly realize that there are only so many innings in the game and then it's over. Admittedly there have been more than my share of missed opportunities and regrets.  And here's the story of one of those regrets.


It starts with me sitting on my deck reading a travel book, having a Blue Moon and listening to random songs on YouTube.   Out of the blue Prefab Sprout's 'God Watch Over You" came on the radio.  I like Paddy McAloon and Prefab Sprout, but I'd never heard this particular track.  That said, the soothing melody and unique lyrics grabbed me by the throat.  While his melodies are occasionally a bit on the sound-alike side, McAoon writes some of the most interesting lyrics I've ever heard (okay, 'King of Rock and Roll' may be an exception).  In this case instantly put the book down and hit replay.  And while I was sitting there soaking in McAloon's thoughtful lyrics I was struck by a huge wave of unexpected regret.  

Here's the back story.  My younger son is a Boy Scout and in the Summer of 2018 his Troop spent two weeks in Kandersteg, Switzerland.  The trip was largely arranged and coordinated by Joseph White.  Probably best known as a sportswriter for the Washington Post, White was a long-standing member of the Troop, having participated in dozens of the Troop's camping trips and other activities,  He'd also coordinate four or five previous Kandersteg trips for the Troop, but this was the first one we'd participated in. 


While I knew Mr. White from Troop meetings, I'll readily admit I didn't know him well. Over the years my son's been a member of this Troop, I've probably never had a conversation with Mr. White that last more than 20 minutes.   That said, he was sharp as a tack; had insights into all kinds of subjects (how many folks do you know that could teach a Troop of young Scouts and their parents how to play Cricket); he was quick to laugh; had a strong sense of right and wrong, seemed to have more friends than anyone I've ever met, and was great with the Scouts.  He was in fantastic physical shape (trying to keep up with him on training hikes for the Switzerland trip almost killed me).  He was also quirky.  Not quirky in a bad way; rather quirky in a cool, entertaining fashion.


While I won't lie and tell you I loved every minute of the Switzerland trip (two weeks in a crappy tent was challenging and for a picky eater the camp food was frequently lackluster to my tastes), there were plenty of amazing moments and seeing my younger son effortlessly cruise through all of the challenges and make friends with a host of foreign Scouts was worth all of my personal discomfort.  


In the wake of the trip I meant to send Mr. White a note thanking him for arranging the trip.  Summer faded into Winter and I meant to send him a Christmas card with my thanks.  Winter came and went.  Spring; Summer ...   In June I had to drive to Front Royal, Virginia (close to where Mr. White had settled and was operating a store), and while coming home I reminded myself to send him a note. Again, no note. Every time I thought about sending him a note, I'd put it off.
Only 56, Joseph White died August 10th, 2019.

5.) Music Is a Princess   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:31    rating: **** stars

Crap, a big ballad with sappy lyrics, 'Music Is a Princess' was one of those songs that I really wanted to dislike.  The problem was McAloon's melody won't leave your head once invited inside.

6.) Earth: The Story So Far   (Paddy McAloon) - 5:01    rating: **** stars

To my ears it was easy to see and hear why McAloon would have decided to expand 'Earth: The Story So Far'.  Breezy and instantly beguiling, showcasing his magical voice,  I would have listened to a 30 track concept album on the subject.  

 

(side 2)

1.) Last of the Great Romantics   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:39    rating: **** stars

Bennett, Cole, Sinatra ...  I imagine they all would have been happy to hear this lushes ballad.

2.) Falling In Love   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:10     rating: *** stars

On any other album, the glistening ballad 'Falling In Love' would have bee a center piece.  Here's it was relegated to also-ran performance.  McAloon's multi-tracked vocals were simply gorgeous.

3.) Sweet Gospel Music   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:23    rating: **** stars

The album's second best song with a piano based hook that you simply can't shake out of your head...  

4.) Meet the New Mozart   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:13   rating: ** stars

The album's line disappointment - the concept was probably better than the actual execution.

5.) Angel of Love   (Paddy McAloon) -  4:23    rating: **** stars

Admittedly, initially I thought this was an anticlimactic and disappointing way to end the album.   Geez, yet another heartfelt ballad ...  And eventually the song's charms and sincerity got to me.

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Crimson / Red

Company: Verycords

Catalog6022046190
Year:
 2018

Country/State: France

Grade (cover/record): NM / NM

Comments: sealed copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 30980

Price: $50.00

 

As the heart and soul of Prefab Sprout, in the early 2000s Paddy McAloon stepped away from music in order to deal with  a series of medical issues including severe tinnitus and the slow loss of his sight.  For all intents and purposes a McAloon solo efforts, 2013's "Crimson / Red" marked Prefab Sprout's collection of new studio material since 2003s' "I Trawl the Megahertz".  Co-produced by McAloon and Calum Malcolm, this one was a true solo release with McAllon writing all ten tracks and responsible for almost all of the instrumentation.  

 

Frankly I had no idea what to expect from this comeback.  Even without medical issues and a decade long hiatus, comebacks are frequently disappointing.  And to his credit McAloon beats the odds, turning in one of the year's best (if largely unheard) albums.  Judging by these ten tracks, McAloon's instantly recognizable voice had weathered his medical challenges without change.  The guy sure didn't sound like any late 50 year old I've ever heard.  Similarly his knack for crafting songs that were catchy and thought provoking remained unabated.  I try not to live in the past, but at it's best, songs like 'Billy' and 'Mystereous' sound like they were written and recorded for one of Prefab's mid-'80s albums.  By my count, eight of the ten songs were among the best things he'd recorded.  With a classic combination of a hyper commercial melody and eclectic lyrics, 'The Best Jewel Thief In the World' opened the album with one of those should-have-been-a-massive hit tracks. And frankly, the album seldom let up afterwards.  'List of Impossible Things', 'Grief Built the Taj Mahal', 'Devil Came Calling" ...  every one of these tunes had something going for it.  In fact my only complaint had to do with the album's marketing.  Given you can't turn on a radio with out hearing some mass-produced, auto-tuned dance track, try finding a copy of this set in the States ...  virtually impossible.  It was almost as if the industry had decided music and talent didn't matter anymore.

 

"Crimson / Red" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) The Best Jewel Thief In the World   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:56 rating: ***** stars

McAllon's lyrics have always left me at a loss - not in a bad way, but in an intriguing, challenging fashion.  It's similar to trying to figure out what a Steely Dan song is about (if in doubt, sex, drugs and rock and roll are usually safe guesses).  When he wraps those lyrics in a song as gorgeous as 'The Best Jewl Thief Int the World', the lyrics almost don't matter.  An edited version of the tune ("what do any of those assholes know?"), was tapped as a promotional CDr release in the UK and the Benelux.

A promotional video was also released: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwmn7ad97Ho 

2) List of Impossible Things   (Paddy McAloon) - rating: **** stars

Folks used to laugh at Dylan for his dense lyrics.  McAloon's got the market cornered in this realm.  Another example where the lyrics are impentrable to my ears, but the fact the song is wrapped in such a glorious melody overcomes that limitation.  The guitar solo was simply too-die-for.

3.) Adolescence   (Paddy McAloon) -  rating: *** stars

'Adolescence' was the first track that didn't knock me for a loop ...  Maybe the portrait of lost youth and trying to get in touch with my own adolescence was simply too personnel.  Pretty song and those with a penchant for self-evaluation will undoubtedly love it.

4.) Grief Built the Taj Mahal   (Paddy McAloon) - rating: **** stars

Opening up with some dazzling jazzy guitar, 'Grief Built the Taj Mahal' was one of those songs where you were left to ponder where McAloon came up with  his ideas.  I'm not the deepest thinker you'll ever meet, but I have to admit the lyrics made me think and even look up the story of the Taj Mahal ...  I had no idea.  What a wonderful story.

5.) Devil Came Calling   (Paddy McAloon) - 3:41 rating: **** stars

Just speculation on my part, but I'm guessing the plotline might have had something to do with the costs of fame.  Again, it almost didn't matter since the combination of the lyrics (an opportunity to live of "Fellatio Drive") and the upbeat, slightly folky melody was a killer combination.  When I first heard it, I must have hummed the tune non-stop for a month.

 

(side 2)

1.) Billy   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:41 rating: **** stars

Classic Prefab Sprout; glistening melody and a lyric that was clever and though provoking ... how could you not stop and ponder a lyric like "her smile is like a fairground, I'm basking in the glow"?   How is it a song like this was thoroughly ignored by radio while mindless dance acts pack the airwaves.  The decline and fall of Western society ...  Another tune that was released as a promotional CDr:

 

 

 

 

-2014's 'Billy' (Go Entertainment GO 70551) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) The Dreamer   (Paddy McAloon) - 6:01  rating: **** stars

Sweet and sappy with some of the best harmonies he's ever recorded.   It's one of those songs I would never readily admit to loving.

3.) The Songs of Danny Galway   (Paddy McAloon) - rating: **** stars

Supposedly a tribute to songwriter Jimmy Webb, 'The Songs of Danny Galway' was another album highlight.  A pretty ballad that most bands would kill to have crafted, thinking about it I can actually see why McAloon would identify so closely with Webb.  Men who worship at the alter of melody and thoughtful pop ...  Hard to think of many higher callings.

4.) The Old Magician   (Paddy McAloon) - 2:51  rating: **** stars

Built on a simple, bouncy acoustic melody, as a 60 year old white guy who is approaching the end of his work life, I could readily identify with the lyrics reflecting on aging.  Could anyone have said it better?  "Death is a lousy disappearing act ..."

5.) Mysterious   (Paddy McAloon) - 4:26  rating: **** stars

Another tribute - this one supposedly a nod to Dylan.  Love the organ fills that make this one of the set's hidden surprises.  Almost criminally addictive..

 

 

 

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