Stephen Duffy: I Love My Friends DLX RM UK 2xCD 
CD 1 : orignial album
- Tune In
- The Deal
- Mao Badge
- Lovers’ Beware
- In The Evening Of Her Day
- Holding Hands With Grace
- The Postcard
- Twenty Three
- She Belongs To All
- One Day One Of These F***s Will Change Your Life
- You Are
- What If I Fell In Love With You
CD 2: Blown Away: Selected Demos Volume 1
- Night Thoughts
- Blown Away
- The Whole Earth Singing
- C’est La Vie, C’est La Guerre
- Suburban Symphony
- Another Golden Shot
- The Waitresses Story
- An Ear For Silent Voices
- The Girl Of The Year
- We Continue For Australasia
Oh for the [scant] times where something desirable comes out and lo, there is enough cash in my online account from the occasional [and normally paltry] sales of material from my collection! It helped considerably that this release was not priced to maim! I pre-ordered the new, third reissue, of “I Love My Friends” some months back and now it’s been manufactured, autographed, and now sits in the Record Cell. This has always been a favorite of Duffy’s albums outside of The Lilac Time, but even so, this album has its feet half in the Duffy pop zone and half in the Lilac Time vernacular. A quintessentially transitional album. That he reformed The Lilac Time soon afterward may not be as big a surprise to the listener hearing this album [in any configuration] as it was to Duffy himself at the time!
What makes this version unique is that Duffy now has the rights to his mid-period to later catalog and can undo the meddling from the label at the time that saw this one juggled around from his original conception. That was not the first time that Duffy fell prey to this tactic, but it may have been the last. He puts out his own material these days. This release sees a unique running order that was what he intended up front on first delivery to Indolent/BMG, although one song [“Something Good” ] is now missing because Duffy has discovered that he sells more copies of his records on LP than CD, and one song had to go to bring it down to “LP length” for fidelity reasons. Sigh.
It still opens with “Tune In,” a montage of a radio dial tuning across the spectrum as tasters of the full breadth of Duffy’s discography fall in and out of earshot. Then, instead of the glammy pop of “Eucharist,” the gentle rolling folkrock of “The Deal,” sounding every inch of The Lilac Time, with its brushed drums and acoustic guitar rondos, pulls the listener in to an intimate proposal being made to a lover to pledge commitment with the least amount of bravado possible. As Duffy puts in in the booklet “now even the hopeful songs were beginning to sound sad.” But the low-key melancholy makes this one very memorable.
Then came time for “Eucharist,” which related the very autobiographical look backward that was triggered by the death of Duffy’s father before the album was made. But the production here by Stephen Street and Duffy had more than a hint of the hand of Andy Partridge, who ironically, only figured on this album originally because the label “didn’t hear a single.” But Partridge’s two productions were still appended here after the album proper, and we’ll get to those later.
New wrinkles led the way in “Mao Badge” with luxuriant, very George Harrison-toned slide guitar easing the sweet melancholy of the song into our ears. This was one of the tracks intended for the album but removed to make way for those two Andy Partridge productions. It later became a B-side; now restored to its rightful place. Good thing too, since it has stuck in the cranium very effectively, but then again, that will often happen no matter if the song is a Duffy B-side or not. His quality control is very high. And songstress Aimee Mann can be found here only for a BG vocal. Hmm. She’s a good choice to pair vocally with Duffy. Why did not more substantial movement in this direction happen?
It’s difficult to imagine that Indolent/BMG had “singles issues” with an album that contained tracks like “Lovers Beware.” The cut had more hooks than a pirate convention. The descending triplets of each line of verse propel the song effortlessly forward and the chorus containing scrumptious countermelodies to delight the discerning palate. The second song restored was “In The Evening Of Her Day.” I have the Cooking Vinyl “17” CD-5 and this song and “Mao Badge” were included as B-sides, so thankfully it was not new to me. The lyrics here are less direct than most of what’s here [more about that later] and the poeticism extends to Ophelia metaphor in the lyrics, but one is also given such lines like this one.
“Start again draw some fire,
Defy the built in obsolescence of desire
When love’s the only thing it hurts to lose” – “In The Evening Of Her Day”
It was not discussed up front, but there was another track added back from the purgatory of B-sides to the running order of the album. “Holding Hands With Grace” was a brief track with just Duffy and his acoustic guitar yet with a pithiness of lyric to belie its 1:15 length.
“There’s a smile upon her face
Grace can be the virtue you embrace
And you will know the love that comes with grace” – “Holding Hands With Grace”
And after that brief interlude, it was time for “The Postcard;” always a compassionate dance with not necessarily distant nostalgia and regret. Duffy again had only an acoustic guitar and harmonica but for a remembrance this intimate, that’s all it really needed. The emotional veracity of it almost makes me feel in eavesdropper when listening. That’s one of the traits of this album. That Duffy was actively stripping away most of the frippery to get down to brass tacks and wasn’t being clever for his own sake. Though goodness knows, that was part of what drew us to his flame!
Next: …Unpopular Music And More Where That Came From