Angel Air 2017
Art of being simple without playing it safe: rough diamond from the age of plastic is dusted off to shine on.
With a post-new-wave matured boy-band looks and songs of arena appeal, this collective had immense commercial potential but a 50-grand Warners-backed deal fell through, and what could be a pop-art temple of music didn’t materialize. The group left a little bit of legacy, though, that began taking shape when bassist Jon Camp and keyboardist John Young were part o Robin George‘s concert set-up. Their rapport fueled by the common proclivity for sophisticated, if accessibly arranged, melody – Camp, his RENAISSANCE credentials intact, could always whip up something like “Auto-Tech” and Young would develop those skills for an ultimate realization in LIFESIGNS on the other side of millennium – an album’s worth of material arrived in due course, once first guitarist Brett Wilde and drummer Tony Bodene had been drafted in to flesh it out, and then a standalone vocalist to let the two J’s stop sharing voice duties and concentrate on instrumental attack. Yet even the full line-up, a sign of seriousness, never cut a proper record, and what remained of their sessions sees the light of day three decades later.
“Element Of Surprise” may be the best display of this ensemble’s modus operandi – in terms of undermining the players’ perceived pedigree by delivering effervescent, effusive delight of disco-funk disposition and having exquisite guitar twang embroider dance-oriented chords, as if to defy any expectations there are – but “Wise Men (Never Fall In Love)” deceptively confirms the listener’s hopes with a quasi-orchestral bombast, only to strip the glitter and reveal the musicians’ technicolor heart. Given a demo denominator of these pieces, their solos are downplayed, but it’s impossible to resist the riff-laden assault of “The Price” which is as infectious as it is playfully progressive, what with Young’s filigree runs across synthesizers, while Camp’s rumble is driving the balladry of “Calling Out For You” towards troubled romanticism, where “Paris Is Calling” wears a fashionable groove on its glamorous sleeve.
There’s a slightly alien, J-pop vibe to “One By One” whose plastic veneer is punctured with a four-string scratch and shattered with splashes from ivories whose collective surge brings on a riveting chorus, whereas “Kasaar” wraps its memorable refrain in honeyed heaviness, and “It’s Really Up To You” is a showcase for Mark Goddard-Parker’s supple voice. There’s a lot of contrast here, the anthemic “Crying” coming across as hackneyed but moving piece, and the reggae undercurrent of “Any Time At All” deliberately ruining the number’s drama without voiding its vigor; still, for all the record’s sonic flaws, there’s also an emotional balance – as reflected in the album’s titular equation. Maybe, it’s time for the ensemble to scale their talents one more time?