Alan Rankine: The World Begins To Look Her Age – JPN – CD 
- Elephant’s Walk In Morning Glory
- Mission For The Don
- Your Very Last Day
- The Best In Me
- The World Begins To Look Her Age
- Last Bullet
- The Sandman
- Love In Adversity
The initial era of Scotland’s brilliant Post-Punk band The Associates has taken on the aura of a lost golden age, with Alan Rankine providing creative soundscapes for vocalist Billy Mackenzie to emote over to ravishing effect. What came afterward though, has gotten a critical pasting that usually showed MacKenzie getting his more widespread body of post-Associates solo work getting summarily dismissed with a curt “not as good as the records he made with Alan Rankine.” Today we’ll look at the other side of that equation in an album I actually have three different pressings of: original BENELUX LP, sealed Spanish LP, and the Japanese CD we can actually listen to without undue work.
The album started off on an instant sour note. “Elephant’s Walk In Morning Glory” began as wrong-footed as possible, given this man’s musical history, with a plaintive dobro which was eventually joined by the deadly banjo. Now, in the right hands, this combo can be magical. But not this time. When the synth strings and full on mid-80s digital keys joined the fray, the entire misbegotten exercise quickly descended to the level of some hellish library music audition with an eye towards scoring some “inspirational” Ron Howard film. It was ghastly beyond belief and had better reach prime Associates levels of accomplishment to get the saccharin taste washed out of my mouth!
But that’s not what happened. Instead, “Mission For The Don” proved that Alan Rankine could run with the 1986 “New Jack Swing” trend as much as any other early adopters could. But this was faceless; apart from the incongruous library music intro that was crudely bolted on to the DOA number. Or the character voice intoning “don’t come back ’til The Don is dead!” Far better was the slightly left-field “Your Very Last Day,” which sounded as if it could have been a contender on the Associates “Perhaps” album. The first one that MacKenzie made without his services. At least musically. Rankine, would be no match for MacKenzie at the mic, but his awkward phrasing tended to make him sound as if he was singing in English as a second language. His voice had that vague BENELUX accent to it, even though he’s a Scot! Perchance did Les Disques Du Crépuscule require it?
As spotty as this album had been, it reached a nadir with the sappy ballad “The Best In Me” which, I kid you not, could have passed muster on a late 70s Chris Rea album! Fortunately, side two found the album once more rising to provoke something more than dismay. The long title track sounded as if it were attempting to tap into the inspiration of “Welcome To The Pleasuredome.” The 8:49 track wasn’t quite as long, and truthfully, it more strongly resembled Wang Chung’s [excellent] “The World In Which You Live,” but The Chung have copped to being inspired by the FGTH opus, so I’ll assume the same thing was happening here with Rankine and at the same time. Both this song and the Wang Chung opus [also from 1986] were plowing similar fields.
“The World Begins To Show Her Age” got up a very similar head of steam with Rankine trading vocals with an uncredited female singer over the long and complex arrangement that unfolded for nearly nine minutes. The scorching rhythmic guitar and leads from the 4:00 to 6:30-ish point served to remind us that, yes, this gent did play guitar on “4th Drawer Down” and “The Affectionate Punch!”
“Last Bullet” was the second single in the BENELUX nations, but the fairly limp MOR tune was hobbled further by the somewhat obscure metaphor of the lyric. The debut Rankine single was “The Sandman” and it fared only slightly better with the sort of song that might have been a deep cut on Thompson Twins “Into The Gap” album. In fact. listening to this track, my mind can swap in Tom Bailey’s delivery of the song without much effort at all. Needless, to say, that’s no reason to buy a record in my book, though I have the 12″ single of this one in the Record Cell as part of my Associates program.
At the end of the day there simply wasn’t much there there on Alan Rankine’s first solo attempt. While anyone’s vocal efforts would be perfunctory adjacent to Billy MacKenzie’s vibrant show of plumage, Rankine was perhaps more out of his element vocally than he might have admitted to. But it was his uninspiring music and songs that were the coup de grace here. From the credits he seems to be the only musician here but all of the effort is for naught. There’s little inspiration, apart from on “Your Very Last Day” and the title track.
And even those relative high points were gorges next to the heights scaled by Rankine while in The Associates. It might not be fair to make such comparisons, but that’s where we find ourselves after a spin of this unadventurous disc that at best begins to approach spitting distance of the first Associates album sans Rankine, but at worst traffics in substandard MOR and pop-by-the-numbers best forgotten. I may have a few too many copies of this album in the Associates collection!
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