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The Band ~ 'Jump On The Band Wagon'
Another successful band from Birmingham formed by guitarist Andy Cox and bassist David Steele, both previously of The Beat. Fine Young Cannibals were only active for under a decade, '84-'92 and '96. Initially 'Two Men, a Drum Machine and a Trumpet', became FYC, associated acts, The Beat. The Band's name was inspired by the 1960's film, All The Fine Young Cannibals; I wonder if there is any irony to be found in the film's storyline of a couple 'forced apart by bad circumstances and brought together by chance...starting off dirt poor and ending up idle rich..But concludes that after the changes in lifestyle the personalities remain the same'!
The music genres of the band incorporated Pop rock, mixing pop's lighter lyrical content with Rock's guitar acoustic songs. With instrumentals of synthesizers, key boards, drums, base and electric guitar, the Band made the most of this more controversial genre. But, new wave, was also a subgenre of the rock music that the Band made use of. Although new wave at first was associated with punk rock, went onto being acknowledged as genre in its own right. This genre combined features of disco, mod subculture, rock, and experimental music, 60's pop and electronic. This musical style incorporates both base and electric guitars, but also synthesizers and drums.
This versatile Band varied their sound by also presenting the warm and passionate genre of Soul music; which combines the elements of Rhythm and Blues. Again using instrumentals of bass guitar, keyboard and drums, but also organ, piano and horn section. Co-incidental to this is the genre of Ska the band incorporated which originated in Jamaica in the 50's, and the forerunner to Reggae and Rocksteady. Ska combined the wonderful elements of Calypso and Caribbean mento with Rhythm and Blues and American jazz. The Band certainly had an edge with using the College rock genre too; a '80s College referring to the radio stations found at academies of higher education. Although, by the 90's, the term 'College rock' was discarded and Indie rock along with Alternative were the new terms used to describe the genre.
The Record Labels ~ 'Designer Labels'
The Band was signed with renowned record label 'London'; founded in '47, parent company being Warner Music Group. The London/WMG, being a very successful and active label to date that were/are behind such artists as Genesis, Rolling Stones and ZZ Top. But, the Band also were signed with I.R.S, founded in '79 with origins in USA; noteworthy acts supported by this label being Black Sabbath and Eraserhead.
The Band Members ~ 'F-aithful Y-outh C-hallengers'!
David "Shuffle" Steele was born in 1960, Isle of Wight. From '78 to '83, Steele was bassist in the Beat, after leaving The Beat to form the band, General Public, moving onto form Fine Young Cannibals, with Andy Cox and Roland Gift. After his performing with Fine Young Cannibals, Steele turned his attentions to a variety of other ventures in the music industry. Noteworthy, producing Gabrielle's album 'Find Your Way', as well as appearing on over two dozen albums and collaborations. Apparently, Steele now lives in London.
Andrew 'Andy' Cox was born in '56, in Birmingham; a British guitarist, who in '78 founded The Beat with Dave Wakeling. The Beat was hugely successful before being disbanded in '83. Then In '85, Cox joined his fellow band member David Steele and singer Roland Gift, to form their band, Fine Young Cannibals. Like Steele, Cox lives in London and remains involved with the music industry.
Roland Lee Gift, born in '61, also from Birmingham, though raised in Hull, is a singer and actor. Gift's initial recording with the band, Akrylykz, brought him to the attention of David Steele and Andy Cox , asking him in '85, to be the lead singer of their fledgling band Fine Young Cannibals. In 2002 and '07, Gift released solo albums. But, it was In '87, that Gift had his first film role, following up in '90 with his first stage work, going on to make appearances in other screen work, including television. Folks will recognize his appearances in TV series such as Highlander: The Series, and Heartbeat.
The Album ~ 'Track Down'!
This talented band, Fine Young Cannibals, with their specific sound, emerged into the mainstream music industry. Reputably impassioned with late '50s and early '60s Motown, including musical influences such as Jools Holland's band role on keyboards and piano solos to other notable artist, the band developed their individual sound as this album clearly shows. Gift's unusual singing voice supplies this album its distinct identity and recognition; a kind of Otis Redding sophistication!
"She Drives Me Crazy" is one of the more well known tracks of the band's songs; peaking at No 5 in the UK Jan '89, then reaching No 1 in the U.S. in April '89. The band's first attempts to record this song were a disappointment to them and those involved in the technical side! But, with an ameliorating of Gift's singing voice and lyrical content, the track became a huge success. From the opening guitar and drum acoustics, one knows they're in for an up tempo jig. Gift has such a smooth tone that changes from a soft harmonious croon to a falsetto higher pitch strong, deeper and sharper warble, that conveys passion as he bellows out. 'She drives me crazy, Like no one else, She drives me crazy, I can't help myself'. The chorus is sung a whole five times during the track's duration of 3:37, but did I become disinterested ? No way! Clearly affected by American rhythm and blues, the tune is one catchy melody that stands out as one of my favourite songs of the whole album. I simply find this song impossible not to sing along too; reveling in the sheer fun of the music and Gift's tonal pitches.
"Johnny Come Home" is yet another well-known tune to many folk who recall the 80's music scene well. It is a poignant and recognizable story of a youth that runs away from home in search of a perceived better life! The youth's arrival in the large city is not what he expected, the chorus echoing his relatives concerns and pleas for him to come home. This 3:35 song gives clear signs of the Ska and Rock genre. A strong thudding drum rhythmic pound furnishes the melody prominently throughout. Electric guitar acoustics afford the pop flavour whilst the jazz infused trumpet acoustics contributes the variation between the two. Listening to Gift's deftly tuned voice, it isn't easy to place his accent as from Birmingham; his inflection has a noticeable American state twang, as he sings 'Use the phone, call your mom, She's missing you badly, missing her son" and very apparent as he
vocalizes 'Johnny, we're sorry, won't you come on home , We worry, won't you come on', This is a fine example of one of those popular tunes that you find yourself humming to long after it's finished playing!
"Suspicious Minds", who doesn't know this one? This song was written by Texan songwriter Mark James; failing at recording this himself, was then handed to Presley! When we think of Elvis Presley, one would not be accused for querying, 'who could sing this with as much appeal'? Gift can! I simply adore his rendition of this gem of a song. To be clear, I can't say, am I drawn to this track more because the song is a personal favourite or because the band's performance is remarkable? Does it matter? Not for me, my conclusion is this track is superb; the acoustics along with Gift's style simply have me craving for more. The band has jazzed up the tempo and Gift enthusiastically and fervidly bellows out such lines as 'Here we go again, Asking where I've been, you can't see these tears are real, I'm crying". At 3:57, double it please! A 10/10 performance!
"I'm Not The Man I Used To Be"; right, let's get this crystal , I LOVE this song! :D Written by Gift and Steele, the tempo remains at a steady measured pace throughout the 4:20 span, but believe me when I tell you, you will be utterly captivated. When I listen to this song, it enthralls me, my emotions are totally involved with the tune and with Gift's amazingly passionate pleas "I've lost dreams that won't come back, memories fading fast, I should save the ones I have, what's the use? Most of them are bad'. Who doesn't, at one time or another, take things for granted? The lyrics are movingly poignant. I really don't think anyone can sing this with such intensity, intonation changing in line with the lyrical content, moving the hearer to acknowledge that life changes us, and yes, we're not the people we 'used to be'; life's lessons can be hard! A beautifully touching performance by this extraordinary band. The combination of jungle like drum beats; guitar and keyboard cannot fail but engage throughout.
"I'm Not Satisfied", a real change in tempo here, as the band performs this 3:47 dance, rock/pop track. This song describes a very discontented man, as he criticizes weekends as too short, girlfriend as too possessive, and the city for being too discouraging; what a joy he'd be! With the drum and guitar acoustics sustaining and supporting a consistent fluid feel, alongside neat keyboard accompaniment, the instrumentals provide a disco flavour to the pop/rock melody. Gift gives a strong energized performance in his voice as he beseeches "No, no, no I'm not satisfied, Can't there be - more to life, I can't see - reasons why". Gift's amazing voice is so powerful that I'm drawn into the misery of the lyrics. Not one of my particular favourites, but nonetheless, a valid song to include completing the album.
"Blue", all I can say to begin with is Wow. You HAVE to see Gift perform this live in smart trousers and Persil white shirt! If he ever needed a CV, a video of this performance would need to be slipped in the envelope! But on this album, you'll just have to imagine this guy alternating pitch in this emotionally moving song. This guy can sing....anything! The lyrical content isn't subtle, pretty transparent regarding the candid feelings concerning the politics with the way things were in the UK! The track opens up with the flowing rhythmic beat of the drums. Gift begins crooning fairly softly 'Ooooohaaaah.I've had a bad day, yeah, My hometown is falling down, I'm mad about that., And people there don't seem to care, I'm mad about that'. The instrumentals feel as if the tune is going to continue in this gentle fluid flow, when the tempo changes to an unanticipated higher pitch as Gift fervently sings the chorus. When Gift agonizing declares in a soulful plea 'There's no denying life, would be better if I never ever had to live with you, Blue - it's a colour so cruel', I'm right there, in the moment. At the length of 3:31, it could be trebled and I'd be happy!
"Funny How Love Is" begins with beautiful exotic guitar acoustics giving a warm introduction to this 3:29 track on the angst of a break-up! This isn't a feel good melody; it is a sad reflection on a guy's experience on the end of a relationship. Gift sings this with just the right amount of despondency in his voice, so that when I hear him sing such lyrics as 'When at first you left I thought I'd surely die, I couldn't see a future without you by my side', I feel I'm actually listening to a man that's candidly revealing his feelings. The trombone furnishes a neat accompaniment that supports Gift well in this moving composition. A soulful interlude between the more light-hearted tracks!
"Ever Fallen In Love" was in fact written by Pete Shelley and then performed by his band, Buzzcocks. This is an excellent cover that has a good strong drum beat that keeps the measured tempo throughout this similar themed 3:55 track as the previous. Gift varies his unique intonations in line with the lyrical content. Quavering out lines like 'You spurn my natural emotions, You make me feel I'm dirt and I'm hurt, And if I cause a commotion I'll only end up losing and that's worse', with a kind of tension in his voice that portrays hurt, affording sincerity to the song. There is an interim of keyboard, guitar and drum instrumentals that keep the paced jazzy rock/pop feel to this track. This track is an excellent follow up to the previous composition.
"Don't Look Back" was written by Gift and Steele, and comes under the Pop/Rock genre. It gives a change of pace and is full of toe tappin' finger clicking fun rhythmic harmonies. Gift gives a thoroughly endearing performance as he warbles 'Oh, I know these times are bad, and it makes you want to cry, Don't be sad, we'll get by. 'The lyrical content can be seen from two different aspects; encouragement in that, despite having little material possessions, moving on and not getting bogged down, as gift warmly advices, 'Baby, baby, don't look back, It won't do you no good, Baby, baby, don't look back, I'm going to leave and I think that you should'. And of course, despondency, a guy trying his utmost to leave with his girlfriend, their past! The 3:42 song simply lifts my spirits, I choose to view the lyrics from a positive stance, and gives a neat twist on the previous two tracks! Beware of listening to this with head phones on! My son came in very embarrassed saying there was someone at the door to see me, apparently I was singing along at full throttle of which the guest heard all too clearly...this song will have this effect on you!
"On A Promise" has such a quirky fun melody, as Gift sings with gusto and neat trebling up of the word 'you' with his 'honest, honest, honest , you got it on a promise', cutting off the ends of the words to offer a more lighter lyrical feel. At a brief 3:8 the song finishes almost too quickly for me due to its chirpy engaging chorus; a light hearted melody that immerses me in its entertaining contents.
"It's Ok" (It's Alright) has a very strong rock feel to the harmonies. This is the first track in the album where I feel that the background slamming beat seems to overwhelm Gift's voice. In fact, it's actually quite off putting, though, because the track has such a captivating powerful tune, I can't help sticking with it. There is great use of synthesizers within the instrumentals. Gift sings the lyrics "It's OK, it's alright, baby's staying one more night, And just you, and I, maybe we can make it right, If you're sure, your answer's no, take you where you want to go, It's OK, it's alright, baby's staying one more night" in his own alluring charm. Not a favourite of mine but a great 3:31 span track to show off the band's seasoned varied musical competence.
"Pull The Sucker Off" is a full 3:34 of pure instrumentals, opening with synthesizers and trumpet. A repetitive human grunt is heard almost throughout the duration of this new wave dance track. I love the combination of acoustics with trumpet concluding the collection of sounds but as a one off! But for the Club/dance youth it will be full thumbs up.
"Prick up Your Ears" is another weirdly unique collection of acoustics, with major incorporation of synthesizers. A fundamental difference though, is that this 2:56 track incorporates lyrical chatting that gives it an extra interesting appeal. I actually prefer this one far more than the previous track. The talking comes over as an interview piece, with the guy commenting sentences like 'It doesn't matter who you are, how your made, how your constructed' with the odd karate sounds thrown in! A very strange but fun piece of nonsense for me!
"Wade In The Water", oh man, you're in for a Gospel flavoured treat with this brilliantly mesmerizing gem. The backup artist is amazing, beautiful in tune and enthralling. You'll be singing along with 'you know my heart....wade in the water', drawling our the rrrr and ending with a ta for the ;warrrrta'! Irresistibly superb. Same duration as previous track, but no comparison!
So there you have it, a wonderful diverse selection of such genres as Pop/Rock, New Wave, R&B and even Gospel! The styles portrayed on this album furnish an excellent taste of Alternative/Indie Rock, College Rock and Dance Rock among others. The moods are as varied as the genres, from exuberant to reflective, energetic to gentle, poignant to freewheeling fun! The band's superb covers as well as their own material furnish this album with an unmistakable sound, as recognizable as Queen. I only need to hear the first couple of notes from Gift's authentic, pure cultured falsetto tones, to know I'm listening to FYC's; a band who were certainly not reluctant to experiment!
Recommend? ~ 'Letter Of Recommendation'
Yes, yes, oh and yes! This album will have you experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions with lyrics most of us will be able to identify with. The extremely multifarious tracks affords appeal to all ages; my son introduced this album to me, a grand-parent! The Platinum Collection [Original recording remastered] Fine Young Cannibals is available from many online outlets, but as Amazon is a reputable company, that's where we chose ours. Currently available for £3.93 and can be Delivered free in the UK with Amazon's Super Saver Delivery option. Play.com also has this album available for £4:99 with free delivery.
PN: Factual references regarding the band's history may be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_Young_Cannibals and links within this page.