Telephone 1980 / Angel Air 2014
Lost treasure of English soul gets a new shine and bares the roots of Nik Kershaw’s chart action.
Exported back home on the crest of British invasion, a new wave of American music started to inform many a Blighty band in the late ’70s but only a few of those managed to fall the right side of the pop barrier. There were DEXYS with their soul and there were FUSION who, contrary to their name, traded funk in spades, even though the later’s package lacked this mysterious element that shapes success. Perhaps, their singer Reg Webb didn’t fit the bench of blind piano-rippers polished by Ray and Stevie, or maybe the quartet should’ve push guitarist Nik Kershaw into the spotlight, yet the group’s chances got busted after this, their only LP which bombed at the time despite the fact that its closing cut, the sensual “Look Behind You,” hit Top 20 in the guise of “Human Racing,” a title track of Nik’s debut where Reg guested. The 1984 version slimmed down the original potential, though, yet its knockout punch, as presented on the album’s cover, is restored now.
The plastic swing of “Big Brother” and “In The Union Now” might ring the harmonic – and social – changes the ’80s would bring, but “Champagne Lady” recklessly strides into the disco domain of the previous decade, its memorable chorus abetted with Kenn Elson’s bass. Such a groove gives an infectiously warm spank to the record’s title track, six-string strum scratching the synthesizer-and-organ jive and brass oiling Webb’s effusive vocals, while “Play Around” brings an unexpected bout of rock ‘n’ roll into the mix. “If I Had The Chance” bristles with riffs, too, yet the Kershaw-penned “Suchi” flows so soulfully it transcends its era and, with its opulent keyboard carpet, spills over into prog. Conversely, the dry “Pain Of Love” borders on the out-of-tune mannerism, and why it wasn’t replaced with a boppy, sax-kissed bonus “Hey! Mr Wonderful” is another mystery. Who’s the loser now, then? With this reissue, everybody wins.