Gary Kemp + Steven Wilson + Mike Garson: Waiting For The Band remix – DL – 
- Waiting For The Band [remix] 10:37
This came out of nowhere and I had to investigate, given the participants. I have been aware that Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet had released his second solo album following a 26 year span from his first one: “Little Bruises” from 1995. Given my disinterest in the MOR stylings of the last Spandau Ballet album, “Heart Like A Sky,” I didn’t see much reason to follow Kemp’s nascent solo career at the time. For that matter, I can say the same of Tony Hadley!
While I have been astounded at the reformation of Spandau in the 21st century, I was not so curious as to buy any of the music the band had issued. Not even Trevor Horn’s involvement was catnip for me as that ship had sailed ages ago for me. When Tony Hadley left the band and a new singer joined, I blinked a few times, rubbed my eyes and said “wake me when there’s a reason to get out of bed.”
So I was not the audience for Kemp’s “Insolo”‘ which was released earlier this year. But I was thinking about the new Ultravox CD with the Wilson mixes on Tuesday night and went to Wilson’s website to see if he was saying anything about them. That’s when I saw the news that Wilson had just remixed a single from Kemp’s album and it was out there in the wilds as of the previous week. More intriguingly, Mike Garson was playing piano on the song! So that’s both a Duran Duran single and a Gary [Spandau Ballet] Kemp single that Garson added his singular piano to this year. He’s hitting two of the biggest New Romantic camps at one! At first I was curious, but when hearing about Garson’s involvement, I crossed the line into “buy curious.” How could I not drop $1.29 to find out more?
It was immediately apparent that the vibe on this song would be very close to what the great Johnson Somerset brings to a widescreen, cinematic mix. The cinematic allusions are stronger for Kemp having used found footage sound bites of 1978 Bowie fans describing their devotion to the artist. The song was Kemp revisiting those halcyon days of 1973 when he had seen both the iconic Ziggy Stardust Hammersmith farewell show as well as “The 1980 Floor Show” which was filmed for an airing on The Midnight Special in The States. Kudos to Mr. Wilson for thinking that maybe a call to Bowie pianist Mike Garson would be appropriate here.
sThe slow, languid buildup was heavy on delicate ambience and the featherlight touch of Garson on piano. This was not one of his “Aladdin Sane” solos. The slow pace and the rhythm programming was not a radical shift from what was on the album track, but the basic rhythm had been goosed for EQ, vibe, and increased complexity. The slow buildup went for a couple of minutes before Kemp made his arrival. Having heard him only singing BVs in Spandau Ballet, I didn’t know what to expect but this was…distinctly underwhelming. The sort of dusky soulful delivery that would have been all over VH-1 in 1988. Like a subtle Michael Bolton, if that makes any sense at all.
The said, the remix has lots of spaciousness that goes for the kind of evanescent beauty that is not without its rewards. Kemp’s guitar attains a glorious tone throughout the song with his solo being nearly Psychedelic Soul ala Robin Guthrie. The extended instrumental movement in the middle sported some languid Theo Travis saxophone that was as rich as clotted cream. At the end of the day the tepid 5 minute album track was capably doubled here with no ill effects. And I’ve heard four minute tracks that make me “check my watch.”
Truth be told, the album version which I sampled on iTunes was all rather tepid as per my level of expectation. Let it not be said that adding Mike Garson piano to a song can do anything but improve it. So this little excursion will be the alpha and omega of my Gary Kemp solo collection. Pleasing enough to have bought and occasionally listen to, but nothing that needs obsessive follow up on. I do find it interesting that Kemp who is now also singing and playing guitar with Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets is making further connections to the Prog world as evidenced by Steven Wilson and Theo Travis’ presence here. I wholly approve of the hybridization of adding Prog thinking to Pop, but wish that Kemp would be a bit more spiky. His obeisance to MOR values undermines my interest in him past 1984 or so.