Sunday, January 17, 2010

Special Delivery: Prefab Sprout Exposed

So back during the holidays, College Roomy delivered, not 1, not 2, not 3, but 10 discs to my mailbox. This wasn't just a delivery of a lot of music, but a lot of music that is right in my listening wheel-house (I guess no real surprise given how well CR knows me). The delivery included classic jazz artists like Thad Jones, Eddie Harris and Steve Kuhn (amazingly three artists I had nothing by); Joe Henry's jazz infused Scar which I might have mistakenly chosen to not go back and get (it is a wonderful effort); a couple great solo piano albums, one by Richie Beirach at Maybeck the other Gabriela Montero's Piano Recital; and a few others including Van Morrison's wonderful Live Astral Weeks at the Hollywood Bowl.

But the album that took me by most surprise in someway, probably because I thought I knew (even owned) the album, was a classic 80's disc, Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout. The original, which was released in the U.S. as Two Wheels Good, came out at a time that might not be thought of as the height of good music. Prefab's style, in some ways, fits into that less-than-memorable era of smooth-wave, British techno-pop, but this album stands out despite the musical tendencies of that era. That said, this disc might have been relegated to the shelves along with many fine memories of college music were it not for CR's special delivery.

The key here is that in 2007, Prefab re-masters and re-releases McQueen, but this time with a bonus disc of frontman Paddy McAloon, playing and singing most of the songs accousticly. The originals are all wonderfully jazzy tunes that are better than most pop (aided by Thomas Dolby's production of the original album), but these acoustic versions drive that point home. As Pitchfork points out:
One thing the new versions do highlight is the astonishing maturity of the songs. Coincidentally, almost all of Dolby choices dated from 1979, when Paddy was 22. Yet they sound all the more appropriate sung by a man of 50.
The point here is that this was a very good album in the 80's, still is, and these bonuses brought me back to the album as more than just an album from college days. And the reissue is well worth your while if you don't already have this one.

Here are a couple originals paired with the acoustic versions. The opening track of the album Faron Young isn't my favorite, but it is a great first track and gives you a sense of one type of song on the album. Appetite is the more common type song on the album and shows off what I believe are the strengths of the album. Enjoy!

Steve McQueen: Legacy Edition / Prefab Sprout: Buy the Album

Faron Young
Faron Young (acoustic version)
Appetite (acoustic version)

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