So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1990 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan waves Goodbye Jumbo...
If you’re anything like me, you’ll remember World Party for the songs Ship of Fools in 1987 and Is It Like Today in 1993 and not much else. If you’re not anything like me, you may also need to know that World Party came out of a solo project by Karl Wallinger after he left The Waterboys in 1986, just to give you an idea of where the musical heritage comes from. Anyway, when a World Party album cropped up on our list of 1990 retrospectives, it surprised me. I was even more surprised to find out it had been Grammy nominated, as it had completely passed me by at the time. What had I missed? Here goes…
Is It Too Late is the first track and it sounds too much like Van The Man Morrison’s Baby Please Don’t Go, but without the driving bass, for me to treat it on its own merit. That’s not a bad thing though and it is a very good song.
Way Down Now is next and I thought I remembered it (it was the “hit” single off the album, peaking at no 66 in the charts) but then I realised it was because it sounds like the Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil in places.
When the Rainbow Comes is the first track in the album where I’ve noticed the lyrics and, yes, they’re as politically astute as Ship of Fools was, hiding in plain sight alongside a lovely trundly twangy melody that showcases Wallinger’s voice, which sounds like Bob Dylan, only in tune and without the nicotine rasp.
Put the Message in the Box is the second 1990 “hit” off the album and again is very Dylan-esque. Again, too, I do vaguely remember it, although that may be because it treads a thin line between being classic and dated. It has a very 70s soft rock Eagles-y sounding backing for the most part, with a weirdly interesting psychedelic break in the middle.
Ain’t Gonna Come Til I’m Ready is a lot more disco rumba than folk rock but that doesn’t do it any favours. The falsetto doesn’t work with Wallinger’s voice; it definitely sounds Saturday Night Fever-ish and not in a good way. The worst track on the album for me, as dated as John Travolta’s flares.
Back to the safer ground of melancholy acoustic folk for And I Fell Back Alone, a beautifully sad song. Strumming guitar and tinkly piano allow Wallinger to get back to the style he suits best.
Take It Up does take it upbeat a little bit and is very reminiscent of Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm with some lovely violin additions from Steve Wickham who, incidentally, was also in the Waterboys (mind you so was everyone at some point) and has played with several other notable bands (like early U2) as a session star.
God on My Side vaguely reminds me of American Pie in its backing riff but otherwise it’s the first track on the album that doesn’t immediately spring another tune to mind. I really like the orchestration on it too.
Show Me to the Top is an upbeat achingly 80s-ish Huey Lewis-y sounding track with thumpy bass and over-produced synths. Finally, it’s something to dance to! Yes, even with the electronic pan pipes. Who knew they were a thing? It may be lyrically vacuous but it’s musically very interesting, with a nice line in soundscaping as well as having a good beat.
Love Street is the 80s/90s blues that you’d expect from later Deacon Blue/Del Amitri. The falsetto works this time, balanced with an almost trad jazz backing, that is stunning. The piano is supplied by Guy Chambers (he who has worked so much with the Robster and adds a lot of keys throughout this album) and it’s stripped back and beautiful.
Sweet Soul Dream is probably the closest you’ll get to traditional Irish folk music on the album and that is due, in no small part, to the glorious talents of Sinead O’Connor, who supplies backing vocals.
Thank You World, finally released as a single in ‘91, rounds out the album and is probably the most World Party-ish track on the album, with an almost a capella vocal, undercut in the verse with a twangy bass and thumpy percussion and beefed up in the chorus with multi-layered choral and twinkling synth.
So what had I missed? A pretty good album to be honest. Lots of reminders of other songs and homages to other songwriters but, as I said at the start of this listen through, that’s no bad thing. There’s enough new to keep it interesting and, of course, Wallinger’s vocal and lyrics which I’d forgotten how good they were. Award winning masterpiece? Maybe not for me but it’s definitely one I will go back to from time to time now that I know it exists.
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