Tag Archives: Prefab Sprout

The Cinch Review

Prefab Sprout – Crimson/Red

Review of Crimson/Red Prefab Sprout

Crimson/Red—the first 100% new album under the moniker of Prefab Sprout since 2001’s The Gunman & Other Stories—is a remarkable record, if less than perfect. It is remarkable first for its very best tracks, a great song always being a remarkable phenomenon, and not something we have any right to expect will simply spring into being on a regular basis. The album Crimson/Red is remarkable secondly for its genesis, as Paddy McAloon (the singer and songwriter of Prefab Sprout) has faced a variety of challenges over the last decade in recording and releasing new music. However, he has not been completely inactive.

Out of a condition of temporary blindness caused by detached retinas came the inspiration for I Trawl the Megahertz, the one official Paddy McAloon “solo” album to date, built around the title track, a twenty-two minute instrumental and spoken word piece. The album is a both sophisticated and soulful work and was finished and released in 2003. Continue reading Prefab Sprout – Crimson/Red

Milder McAloon review

Quoted Out Of Context: Music by Paddy McAloon – (Joakim) Milder PS

Review of Music by Paddy McAloon Milder PS

I guess that there are at least three obvious reasons why jazz musicians have always gravitated towards playing standards (at least as a part of their repertoire). By standards, I’m referring to the classics by the great composers of popular song of the first half of the twentieth century: the Gershwins, Porter, Arlen, Kern, Rodgers (with both Hart and Hammerstein), et al. For one, the songs are melodically appealing and harmonically interesting, and so make good subject matter for a musician and provide good jumping-off points for his or her own improvisations. A second reason—I would suggest—is that the songs are lyrically strong. Even when there is no singing (or perhaps especially when there is no singing) it is advantageous for the music to have an emotional and poetic anchor in words that may be unheard but are known to the players and likely to the listeners as well. And the third reason is familiarity itself: if your audience knows the songs, then they will more readily accept your performance and more easily perceive what you are adding to the music. Likewise, your fellow musicians know the songs, and the ways in which your rendition varies from those that have come before will define your uniqueness as a player.

When Swedish saxophonist Joakim Milder decided to record a whole album of songs by Paddy McAloon (Quoted Out Of Context – Milder PS), I guess he decided that two out of three wasn’t so bad. That is, McAloon (leader of erstwhile British band Prefab Sprout) writes songs that meet the criteria of being melodically inventive and lyrically strong, but I don’t think anyone could claim that they are well-known enough to constitute a common currency amongst jazz musicians. And in any case, Milder and his musical cohorts avoid the few obvious hits from the McAloon ouevre (e.g. “When Love Breaks Down,” “Cars and Girls,” and “King of Rock & Roll”).

The very broad and distinctly tasteful look at McAloon’s body of work that is offered by the tracklist is one of the things about the album that I liked instantly, including as it does songs like “Andromeda Heights,” “God Watch Over You,” and “I Trawl the Megahertz.” And on listening, it is simply a delight for a fan of McAloon’s songwriting to hear his material being performed with the kind of intelligence, maturity and depth of feeling that Joakim Milder and his colleagues bring to this record.

An example is better than any number of characterizations, and an ideal one is probably the version of “Nightingales.” The version by Milder and company can be heard below embedded via SoundCloud. (For comparison, the original Prefab Sprout version is no doubt easily found on YouTube, and one might even find a rare solo piano rendition by the songwriter).

The song “Nightingales” possesses a melody both gorgeous and perpetually teasing to the ear. By itself it would announce that McAloon is a rare talent. Lyrically, it is also teasing: a rhetorical, one-sided conversation about nothing less than the meaning of existence. Questions are softly posed, inadequate answers are brushed off, and a conclusion is offered that is all but proven by the existence of the song itself, in a kind of circular philosophical gambit.

Milder, with his saxophone, joins in the conversation, and adds to it. He contributes no histrionics, and does not stretch anything beyond its breaking point, but nevertheless imparts his own particular urgencies and poignancies. And the sound of the entire ensemble is a true joy of sensitivity and focus.

I could go down the list, and there would be similar observations to make about each and every track. It is that good an album. McAloon has had a fair number of cover versions recorded of his songs, but not to my mind (or my knowledge) by anyone with the kind of musical chops needed to lift the material out of a very contemporary pop context and into the more timeless zone which I think it is, at its best, worthy of occupying. That it would be a jazz instrumentalist who would do this is surprising, but surprises like this are very welcome.

Paddy McAloon Crimson/Red Prefab SproutThe album has been out for a while, and I’ve long had it on my mind to write something about it, but the timing now is perversely apt, because a long-awaited brand new album by Paddy McAloon is being released shortly. It’s under the moniker of “Prefab Sprout,” but McAloon (who some years ago developed ear trouble that prevents him from easily working with a band) provides all of the instrumentation. It’s titled Crimson/Red, and previews suggest it is (perhaps surprisingly) a very bright, energetic collection of pop songs.

I’ll be happy indeed if it has just one or two tunes as good as the great “Doo Wop in Harlem.” A live version from McAloon and Prefab is discoverable on YouTube. The lovely rendition by Joakim Milder and company is embedded below.

You can find the Milder PS album through Amazon UK: Quoted Out Of Context – Music by Paddy McAloon


The full tracklist is:

1. Couldn’t Bear To Be Special
2. Doo Wop In Harlem
3. Anne Marie
4. I Trawl The Megahertz
5. Dragons
6. Nightingales
7. God Watch Over You
8. Andromeda Heights
9. Jesse James Symphony & Bolero
10. Pearly Gates

……

The Cinch Review

Something to dwell upon

On another blog I just picked the album From Langley Park to Memphis by Prefab Sprout as “one of the essential but non-obvious albums of the 1980s” so I thought I’d post one of the essential but non-obvious songs from it, titled Enchanted. (Actually, it’s taken me 22 years to let this little slice of Brit-pop-soul, or whatever you want to call it, get under my skin, so I’d say that’s very non-obvious indeed.)

Here’s something to dwell upon
Now we’re living, next we’re gone

So if you’ve love please pass it on

’Cos it’s a disbelieving world
But sensitive as any girl …


The Cinch Review

Earth: The Story So Far

Earth: The Story So Far

There’s a book called “God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas”.One of the chapters in it was written by the late, great Richard John Neuhaus, and begins like this:

We are all searching, and ultimately — whether we know it or not — we are searching for God. Ultimately, we are searching for the Ultimate, and the Ultimate is God. It is not easy, searching for God, but maybe your reading this book is part of your own searching. The fact is that we do not really know what we’re looking for or who we’re looking for. Almost a thousand years ago, St. Anselm of Canterbury said, “God is that greater than which cannot be thought.” Continue reading Earth: The Story So Far