I’ve been racking my brains to try to remember how I came by this album. It seems to have been sitting in the CD shelves forever. I would have been aware of Prefab Sprout from when they first achieved main stream success, I mean how are you going to forget a name like that but wouldn’t have considered myself fan enough to go out looking for it, so maybe it was just one of those serendipitous bargain bin purchases.
Their big hit was The King Of Rock and Roll but there was also an album called Steve McQueen which predates this release. (I’ve had a small infatuation with all things McQueen for years). But thinking back to 1990 I can’t remember this
specific album so maybe it wasn’t as warmly received in Australia as the U.K or maybe it just didn’t register at the time.
It’s a bit of an odyssey this record! It’s often described as a concept album; I don’t know if that was by Paddy McAloon or the critics? but it’s not. There are 4 distinct parts to it and he neatly divides them off on the playlist but really, I suspect it could just as easily have been released as 4 E.P’s or any one of the sections worked up into a full length release. Paddy McAloon is nothing but ambitious and probably too easily bored to confine himself to one genre. He’s a bit like Beck in that he skips across musical styles though it is always informed by an unerring Pop sensibility. The trouble is he’s just too darn talented to leave a simple Pop song alone. As a consequence he sometimes over stretches. The ballads can border on cloying and he’ll fill up every nook and cranny of the big anthems till they’re bursting at the seams but he commits 100% to every tune he pens and more often than not it works.
Thomas Dolby was in charge of production and if you remember She Blinded Me With Science from the 80’s it’s very obvious. His trademark is a sumptuous production. Everything is recorded with care and attention to the details. It’s a rich, lush, dense sound wrapped up in sparkling melodies.
Jordan The Comeback is packed full of songs (19 in all) covering everything from Elvis Presley (reincarnated as the gunfighter Jessie James). To ruminations on ageing, straight up Boy vs Girl love songs and a quintet of tracks that revolve around God/Faith/Death. It’s here when Paddy McAloon is grappling with the big subjects that I’m drawn in. There is a song in particular, One Of The Broken which is just lovely. Written from the perspective of the God, It opens with the voice of the Almighty. Reverb turned up, all portentous and bombastic and God-like. It then segues into the song itself with its delicate melody and compassionate lyrics. He’s got a lovely voice has our Paddy.
The songs I like? Looking For Atlantis opens the proceedings. It’s a rousing number that gallops along briskly like the Wild Horses of the next songs name. Machine Gun Ibiza overcomes its clumsy lyrics and gets the blood pumping. We Let The Stars Go has apparently been covered by Kylie Minogue and I’d be curious to hear it but it’s proving pretty elusive to track down on the internet. Which just goes to show there is another world out there that doesn’t start with W.W.W.
Skipping to the end of the album is Doo-Wop In Harlem. It’s another song where he’s soft touch shines through. It’s a tender song; a little plaintive, a little contemplative and a gentle way to bring the album to a close.