|About the Smokie albums reissue|
The first two albums of Smokey, much more “Pass It Around” – it's quite what had left as an inheritance of Kindness. Instrumental parts in the Chapman's hits on the second album and all the more in the songs on the third and further albums didn't sound no longer in such a way. It's an old school of British rock of the 60s. Especially the bass of Terry. His parts can be just placed on the same level with parts of the most brilliant and famous performers of that time. That's incredible! What means professional performance of another's classics along nearly ten years. Even saying that they had "got their hand in" it's impossible to express the level of that masterly performance. Besides that in the bass parts it's expressed the most strikingly, the same goes to all other instrumental parts. Beginning already from the second album you won't hear such drums as, for instance, in “Daydreamin’”. Extremely accurate and even so free and uninhibited playing with improvisations and with decoration of rhythmic pattern by real traceries. And how brilliantly rhythm guitar parts were painted, especially where they are doubled, tripled etc. But at the same time every instrument sounds absolutely individually. And solo parts of Alan simply have to be listened to...
Listen, youngsters! Listen, starting from the very first album. By this reissue you get a unique chance to touch to the very origins of the band's works. Surely, these are not that “crude” recordings of Kindness but in “Pass It Around” and partly in “Changing All The Time” one can still discern that same origins and, above all, a colossal creative potential of the musicians which afterwards had become a foundation for their many years stunning music career. And 7T's Records has given you an opportunity to listen to it all just in a delightful quality. As for those who was acquainted with that stuff before, let me give you an advice. Give yourself the trouble to get on headphones one evening – you won't regret. You will hear just thousands of a new, fresh and impressive nuances which will simply overwhelm you with new impressions of something already distant and forgotten…
However this concerns also to the next three classical albums of Chapman's era and his maximal influence. Thereby – having ensured the band's breakthrough to international success. You can hear them again. And hear in a great quality. One would think, and what we haven't heard there yet? Indeed, it have been heard already far and wide, mentally learned by heart and even hummed once to a guitar in a yard. But no, even here a good many surprises which were infused by a crystal quality of the records are waiting for us. But there are already different music accents. There is no so much virtuosity already. To be more precise, it exists but somehow it is moved a bit to the background and don't intentionally strike one's eye. It's just laid into foundation. It's just like priming on a painter's canvas. And that, by the way and to our regret, had given a reason to some dull-witted critics to rate the band as lightweight. But here is a HIT on the foreground. Here are the Chapman's hits and his sound produce. Here is a sound of acoustic guitar floating in a mid tempo, here is a background of a string orchestra, delicious cues and solos of Alan, accurate, clear and “simple” playing of the rhythm section of Terry and Pete. (Though it's not simple at all. If you don't have a sophisticated technique and can't improvise then you won't be able to play even a “simple” rhythm to metronome, curiously enough.) And here are that same voice of Chris which drove us, then teenagers, crazy and vocal harmonies which had become just unbelievably beautiful. To say shortly, everything what Smokie had “got” us by at that time. And here is also much more other interesting things. For instance, here are the songs composed by the band members themselves and their arrangements. Though they tried to write and to record their own hit as quick as possible but their songs turned out to be more distinctive than to be hits. And that only did well to these albums and to the band's reputation, and made listeners happy. In general, these three albums are again a complete feeling of holiday, beauty and youth…
Now the plot thickens. ;-) The rest three albums is quite a “grown-up” life and works. Audacious experiments, sometimes new searches, sometimes playings with fashion. But nevertheless these are the respectable works of the mature group which had accumulated a huge store of mastery and had its unique style and glorious name long before that albums. And the CDs from 7T's Records really worth to listen them in a headphones.
As it was said, the reissued albums contain tracks from the original records and songs from the singles released chronologically close to the albums. The principle of such reissue is rather clear. All right, in this case only those records were used which nowadays BMG have the rights on and in that time they were released on RAK Records. (That is the reason why the “Midnight Delight” album still remains unreissued.) But just from the fan's position wish we could have more and more. It would be great if these new editions would be supplemented also by the songs which were unreleased even in those years. For example, “Roll On Baby”, “Love Is A Riot”, “Let It Be Me”. You never know what records are still collecting dust on shelves... Of course, initiators of this edition didn't set this as an object. And even had no rights on this. But we wished it for a fullness of impressions, didn't we? ;-)
But in general, the subject of the songs which were not included into the original albums, particularly of the singles, I think, deserves a separate discussion. As it's mentioned in the booklets, the strategy of mutual cooperation was taken from the very beginning of the band's work with Chinn and Chapman. Mike Chapman writes hits for a-sides of singles and creates a distinct sound of the band. And singles b-sides are filled by songs of Smokie themselves. According to the author of the sleeves notes, the band had a total freedom for making LPs. Well, or nearly total. Usually the LPs contained a couple of mentioned zero-risk blockbusters from a-sides and also cover versions of somebody else's works. And one of the main goals for Smokie was to create their own hit for a-side. Firstly, that was a creative task as well as a vain, in the finest sense of the word. And also at that time they could solve many problems connected with their creative and financial independence. They wanted to create something their own, something great and unique. (And finally they had gained their object with the release of the single with “Mexican Girl” on a-side.)
But here I talk just about the b-sides. While the songs from a-sides were part of albums or compilations, we knew much less about the others, “dark” sides. At least in the former USSR a very few people could hear them at that time. All that stuff was picked up for a long time literally by grain. And when much later the official release with the b-sides came out it was a big event. But for some reason that record hadn't inspired... Great songs, no one “run-of-the-mill”. The works by the members of the band. Moreover, many of them were written by Alan and Terry whose composer's creativity was presented in the albums lesser than Chris and Pete's. And main thing is that these songs from the b-sides are exceptionally distinctive. In most cases they were written in quite another way than others. They were performed in quite another way. Finally, they have quite another sound. That's why it's hard to listen such a compilation as a separate disc. They are not just differ from other stuff, they strikingly differ from each other and listeners don't have the feeling of completeness of the disc. And that begins to cause discomfort at some point. In addition, these songs are absolutely uncomparable with a-sides. And seems that's why they had stayed “lost” for a long time. Moreover, I suppose, with rare exception they simply couldn't get into the albums just because of their “exceptionality”. Strangely enough... But after all, they should been released somehow. And propably there weren't any other ways for them than on b-sides.
And so, here comes the actual reissue. Excellent idea to add the songs from the singles as bonus tracks. Perfectly, as for the history, chronology, complete collection, anthology or what else. It's okay. But something is not okay again. Now, if you going to take album with bonus tracks as one unit then it doesn't “sound right” again... The reason is the same – the b-sides is a separate facet of Smokie's works. The same thing had happened to many bands but in case of Smokie it's the most pronounced.
Undoubtedly, these songs simply “have to be” in this edition, no other ways. And they are arranged absolutely right, systemically, logically and rationally, also without questions.
But for some reason I'd like to rearrange them so that the “renewed” albums could sound maybe completely…
The album “Pass It Around”. Bonus track is “Couldn’t Live”. No questions. It's even strange why this song hadn't got into the album in its time.
The album “Changing All The Time”. No questions to “Talking Her Round”. But the place for “Tis Me” is obviously on the first album.
The album “Midnight Cafe”. Bonus tracks “Train Song” and “The Loser” – are in the style of the first album. “I’ll Meet You At Midnight” fits this album “like a glove” to such an extent that it was included into some editions before. The same goes to “Living Next Door To Alice”. It suits this album perfectly. But “Miss You” and “Run To You” are much closer to the second album. The melodies here are more complicated than in Chapman's hits and that very origins still can be heard. But the sound is already the “Chapman's” and it seems that this is the basic characteristic feature of the “Changing All The Time” album.
The album “Bright Lights & Back Alleys”. All three bonuses “Now You Think You Know”, “Here Lies A Man” and “Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone” are going straight to the third album. And “Lay Back…” still from the childhood is associated somehow with the compilation “Greatest Hits” where it was the first track. The ideal place for this song could be the first track in “Midnight Cafe”. All the more the second tracks would coincide in that case... And generally speaking, after “Walk Right Back”, the most brilliant masterpiece of the “Smokie rocks” style, it's absolutely thankless to add something at all to that album.
“The Montreux Album”. Here both sides of the single from Chris and Suzi are chronologically put. It's hard to say what Smokie's album they would fit in. But definitely not to this one. Rather to the next.
The album “The Other Side Of The Road”. All four bonus songs just were born before their time. If “Cryin’”, “Did She Have To Go Away”, “You’re You” and “Maybe I Just Don’t Know” could adorn, for instance, three years later the album “Midnight Delight”, then it would simply become awesome. Though this album didn't get into this edition at all for the known reasons. There is rather offensive opinion that it was “poor”, that it was not “those” Smokie and so on. Exactly “those”! Though, of course, changed. This is quite understandable – “Midnight Delight” consists completely of the songs written by the band members. And they never wrote and arranged their own songs to the same level.
The album “Solid Ground”. A merry mosaic mixed on different music styles. And, from the music point of view, it suits everything and as much as possible. As for the sound, “Not Fade Away” is exactly on its place. “Run To Me” much better would fit the previous album. “I Wanna Kiss Your Lips” and “Look What You Doing” I'd better send somewhere to 1982. Concerning “Little Town Flirt” - ?????? It's a top of “peculiarity”. ;-)) The first idea which comes to my mind – it's the second solo album of Chris... And if suddenly the editors would like to add somewhere the song “Let It Be Me” then it would be rather to the point in “Solid Ground”.
There are no bonus tracks in the “Strangers In Paradise” album.
Of course, all written above is only a private opinion. And let it remain just idle thoughts, conjectures and wishings. The whole thing is really great as it is! And if somebody don't like some things then it's always possible for them to burn their own version “for listening in a car” ;-)
A colossal work is done for making this reissue. We all have got the opportunity to enjoy the music of the favourite band again by means of this nearly complete anthology made with such a quality, so skilfully and with so much love. Old fans can be rejoiced and superlatively satisfied with such a present. Also it's very important, let me emphasize this, for the youth. For those who only begin their acquaintance with Smokie. And not from another thousandth compilation kind of “The Best Of…” but from the first smashing chords of “Pass It Around”. No doubt, you won't stop until listening to the last song on the last album. This is made also for you!
|© DK67, Feb 2008|