Part 6: Five Years…
From 2001 to 2006 brought our ears a positive deluge of Billy MacKenzie music in the for of archival issues, compilations, and reissues. In 2001, Paul Haig’s Rhythm of Life label dropped another new album of songs Billy had written with Dundee Musician Steve Aungle. These were written for various band concepts that MacKenzie was interested in pursuing. Word had filtered out to the mailing list about projects like Outerpol [Electronica], Winter Academy [classic acoustic ballads], and Case [Glam Rock] and on this disc, we finally got to hear the results.
The album began with a bang with a pair of tracks that prefigured where Bowie would be going the same year that MacKenzie had died, though “Falling Out With The Future” and “Hornophobic” were obviously recorded earlier. The former was the most pulsating, slice of slipstreamed Electronica imaginable. Sleek and vicious; it was a technological cheetah, capable to taking curves at high velocity. The latter was a more abstract Drum + Bass excursion far more palatable than what Bowie had tried for later on.
The Tech-gothic melodrama of “14th Century Nightlife” sounded like little else out there as it wisely remained almost purely instrumental. “Liberty Lounge” was from the Case-book of Glamrock derived sounds with the only up-front rock guitar on the album. The rest of the material was primarily balladic, with “The Soul that Sighs” being particularly swoon-worthy. With a poise that emphasized eerie stillness and flies frozen in amber as its crystalline beauty glistened in the darkness.
The album also featured two covers with Billy taking a sensitive turn at Sparks brilliant eco-ballad “[Never turn Your Back On] Mother Earth.” Both cover versions were special enough to have gotten an EP release along side the album in a limited edition of 500 that I snapped up immediately. The “Wild Is the Wind” EP is now a solid three figure item, so I was glad I didn’t dawdle. These were abetted with a stunning take of Randy Newman’s “Baltimore” showing the influence of Nina Simone on Billy, as well as a Trip-Hop remix of “Memory Palace’s” “Give Me Time” also featuring MC Buzz B. As “Fever In The Shadows” proved back in 1990, Trip-Hop was a good fit for MacKenzie.
2002 Brought another previously unreleased album with the first commercial release of “The Glamour Chase” paired with the first CD release of “Perhaps.” “The Glamour Chase” cover art had filtered out on the web and it was pleasing to see that it was used here complete with the title still written on the palm of MacKenzie’s hand. Listening to it finally revealed not so much a farrago; destined to fall to the earth in flames, as an album that simply used up too much of WEA’s finances to stand a chance at profitability. It seemed to have been spiked simply due to the label’s spite at the time for having been played by MacKenzie. It was refreshing to hear a 1988 British album that didn’t reflect House Music trends! Even 18 years later.
And it was almost as gratifying to hear “Perhaps,” all 55 minutes of it, on a full range CD with none of the groove cramming that the LP was party to. In spite of Teldec’s very best efforts. The package had a deluxe O-card and Paul Lester liner notes and even a pair of bonus tracks added to “The Glamour Chase” for good measure.
We next got every BBC Radio Session the band ever recorded on two volumes in 2003! An amazing 30 songs and easily twice the amount of material that even the earlier 16-track Radio Session album sported. Six songs that appear no where else were spread across the discs and volume one neatly contains the Rankine Associates era with everything else [from the ’85-’85 era] fitting on volume two. It’s particularly interesting to hear the late in the game versions of early tracks that dated from the earliest time of the band. With MacKenzie always interested in finding out new ways to cut the fabric of his always mutable songs.
Volume two featured a player who would become pivotal Peter Murphy’s backing band [The 100 Men] in short order: Roberto Soave and Howard Hughes. It was interesting to see that “Heart Of Glass” was a point of interest for MacKenzie a full three years before releasing it as a single. His essential take of “The Crying Game” can only be found on this disc.
Next: …Beware The Savage Roar Of Two Thousand And Four