John Fiddler 1992 / Angel Air 2013
From the gloomy dark side into the glimmering moonlight, the HEAD bluesbreaker goes it alone and wears his soul on the sleeve.
He’s a chameleon, this man. Shaking hippy blues with MEDICINE HEAD, John Fiddler bravely got rid of some hair to front the harder rocking BRITISH LIONS, a MOTT THE HOOPLE offshoot, and then lent his voice to THE YARDBIRDS’ ’80s reincarnation, BOX OF FROGS. So the veteran wasn’t quite surprised by the management’s suggestion to join THE STRANGLERS in 1992 and started to fashion songs in that band’s mode.
Presumably, JJ Burnel found Fiddler’s creativity a challenge to his authority and rejected their union, yet John carried on writing nevertheless to release the dozen of demos on cassette and, in the absence of a contract, sell it by mail-order and at concerts. It made “State Of The Heart” a rarity, yet the music on has a much wider appeal.
Despite overall safe approach taken with ballads here, the vibrant “Gimme Blue Skies” follows the “Golden Brown” template with much Gallic gusto, and even the plastic feel can’t diminish the funky rapping blast of “Who’s Havin’ Fun?” which, together with radio-friendly romp of “Sex In the 90’s” could have upped THE STRANGLERS’ hit count. Elsewhere, opener “Strong Heart”, as airily pompous as the ’80s production rules dictated, springs to life once Laurence Archer’s exquisite guitar and Duncan Mackay’s ivory vignettes decorate Fiddler’s sharp riffs to provide an exquisite casket for his youthful voice to flutter in. Even the simplest pop cuts, such as the synth-skanking “Hearts Of Fire” or the organ-riding “Only The Roses”, have a magnetic undercurrent to them, whereas the harmonica-aided “Everybody Has the Blues (Sometimes)” and finale “Where’s Heaven Now” see John back on the HEAD track.
That’s where his heart lay, obviously. A chameleon may change his colors but not his shape. A worthy addition to the Fiddler catalogue.