Record Review: Paul Haig’s “The Warp Of Pure Fun” Boxed Set Shows That He Should Have Ruled The Mid-80s [part 2]

“The Warp Of Pure Fun” was not always the second Paul Haig solo album. In the ’83-’84 period before “Warp” was recorded, he and producer Alan Rankine were recording what was to be the “lost” second album while Island Records still had a development deal with Les Disques Du Crépuscule. Island were under the false impression that New Order was producing the whole album, so they let the money tap stay open. Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson ended up producing only the single “The Only Truth.” Then the Island deal collapsed and Haig had to step back, take a re-assessment, and start again. Eventually culminating in what we now know as “The Warp Of Pure Fun.”

But all of those demos and indeed, finished recordings still exist. With some songs that never made it to the real second album. Some of the tracks were re-recorded for “The Warp Of Pure Fun” with others being consigned to the dustbin of history. Three tracks from the sessions [“Trust,” “Big Blue World, ” The Only Truth”] were used as-is on the proper album and thus are not on this disc. The various demos of this stew are also present on disc two and we hear those first.

Disc 2 – Demos + Unreleased Album

paul haig the warp of pure fun disc 2

Les Disques Du Crépuscule | UK | 4xCD | 2021 | TWI 669 CD
  1. City Life (1984 demo)
  2. Judgement Coming (1984 demo)
  3. Love & War (1984 demo)
  4. The Only Truth (1984 demo)
  5. Heart of Song (1984 demo)
  6. Crawling (1984 demo)
  7. Fear and Dancing (1984 demo)
  8. One Lifetime Away (1984 demo)
  9. Trust (1984 demo)
  10. Shining Hour (1984 demo)
  11. World Raw (1984 demo)
  12. All Our Love (lost album)
  13. Love Eternal (lost album)
  14. Shining Hour (lost album)
  15. One Lifetime Away (lost album)
  16. Fear and Dancing (lost album)
  17. All Our Love (lost album)
  18. Love & War (lost album)

The phalanx of eleven demos was smartly split between tracks we were already familiar with and song not on disc one of “The Warp Of Pure Fun.” The brief Electro instrumental of “City Life” got things off to a modest start while the also new song “Judgement Coming” was a blend of minimal synth aesthetics and guitar from Haig. Most of these demos were down to machines and Hague. I would imagine after all of this demo activity recounted here might have been when he got the idea to step away from drum machines for the second album.

The demo of “Love + War” was all walking synth bass line and the arrangement didn’t change substantially over time. With the exception of the battlefield sounds created on synths in the coda which strongly recalled the grand daddy of such hijinx: Roxy Music’s “The Bob [Medley].” “The Only Truth” recalled Cab Volt at their most minimal. I wonder if that was down to Haig’s affinity for them or simply the nature of the demos he was recording? The production came down close to the early hip-hop sound, at least until the anthemic chorus burst through. At any rate, the “Blue Monday” drum break was also in the demo version, so I can’t blame that on Sumner’s production on the final version!

Three more “new” songs manifested in “Heart of Song” and “Crawling.” The former an intriguing blend of Funk and twangy guitar. Dare we call it janglefunk? The latter was tipped as potential single material. Haig was crooning at this point instead of the belting that would typify his vocals on the finished album. I have to admit that he made the right decision to move from that sound. “Fear + Dancing” was a winner from the title alone! The Synthfunk featured some really neurotic vocals. Perhaps overly enhanced in that direction by what sounded like a light touch of ring modulator, for a hollow, mechanical vibe. And the crooning returned again for the song’s middle eight. The repetition at the song’s end was perhaps over the line by a minute or so.

“Shining Hour” was a different song built on a 808 mated with fretless bass and rhythm guitar for a paradoxically thin yet funky vibe. Haig’s expressive belting was reaching full launch on this number. Except for the outro sample edits, I can’t tell much of a difference between the demo of “World Raw” and the finished B-side. “All Our Love” had an appealing late 60s MOR vibe to it that exhibited a breezy, if slight, appeal. The syncopation between the rhythm guitar and the programmed bass certainly worked.

The six tracks originally recorded for the second album were fascinating to hear in that they were perfectly adequate but we can hear how the re-think made for a much stronger album. “Love Eternal” had a very different character with much more programming and the bass in particular, was redolent of that in Cab Volt’s “Just Fascination.” Which led to cognitive dissonance when the result was supposed to be a warm an inviting love song! It still had a gorgeous guitar solo in the middle eight that had some of the Robin Guthrie sound about to happen at any minute.

The real gem here was the full production of “Shining Hour.” The combination of programmed bass with bass guitar and the 808 was the height of funky syncopation. The glassy synths added sparkling melodic stabs into this compelling sound which seemed to be laying the groundwork for something like “Cupid + Psyche ’85.”

I seem to have discovered a mastering error since I swear that both versions of “One Lifetime Away” clearly were the same track. Albeit one was slightly more compressed than the other! I replaced one right channel with the other in my editor and there was no disparity. Both clearly had the exact same percussion being played. Fortunately, “Fear + Dancing” was there to make us forget this lapse. The urgent Latin bass line made for an appealing techno Rhumba vibe. The latent charms of the song had been suitably polished in the re-recording. The abstract distortion guitar was an exciting addition to the mix as squealing clouds of Rankine began to take on the sound of a crazed violin.

The finished version of “All Our Love” bypassed the MOR Pop of the demo and veered close to actual Country Music with the twangy, almost weepy guitars being a bold statement next to the prominent and obviously programmed bass. It’s almost like a Glen Campbell song here except for that surprising incongruity! The rhythm guitar solo in the coda was a great way to end the song, but then Haig broke the spell by ending with his vocal.

Alas, the closing version of “Love + War” was another mastering error, with the final album being used for the so-called “lost album” version. But intriguingly, the mastering on the two files was slightly different! Meaning that the mastering engineer did the work twice without realizing he was working from the same file. It was disappointing that I ran across these two errors since this box was shaping up to be a fantastic deep dive into a fertile period for Paul Haig that coincided with his solo peak popularity.

Next: …Remix Remodel

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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