Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Searchers: “Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981” (2017) CD Review

I knew The Searchers only from their 1960s output, including their hit versions of “Needles And Pins,” “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” and “Love Potion No. 9.” With the new two-disc set, Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981, I’ve been turned on to a whole other side of this band, music I was completely unfamiliar with. The music has a different sound from those familiar 1960s songs. This is a band that apparently continued to evolve, rather than sticking with what had worked for them early in their career, and so the music has a late 1970s pop sound. What’s surprising is how good it is. The band at this point was basically the same lineup from the mid-1960s, made up of Mike Pender on vocals and guitar, John McNally on guitar and backing vocals, Frank Allen on bass and backing vocals, and Billy Adamson on drums (with Adamson being the most recent addition). This set contains two complete LPs, single B sides, alternate mixes and one previously unreleased track. New liner notes by Scott Schinder are included.

The first disc contains the complete self-titled 1979 release, plus bonus tracks. It opens with “Hearts In Her Eyes,” a fun, bright pop tune written by Will Birch and John Wicks (The Records’ own version is included on their 1980 LP, Crashes). “Some girls want a boy to give them all the action/Others are in a hurry to find a little satisfaction/This girl, she’s tough/She gets going when the going gets rough.” That’s followed by “Switchboard Susan,” a delightfully goofy song written by Micky Jupp, one that was a minor hit for Nick Lowe that same year. I loved it from the moment it started. Well, from the moment the music started; I could do without the phone sound effect at the beginning. (That same effect is in Nick Lowe’s version too, by the way; Gary Brooker, however, dispensed with it for his version, also from 1979.) This tune has a good, catchy groove, and playful lyrics and backing vocals. “First time I picked up my telephone/I fell in love with your ringing tone/I’m a long-distance romancer/And I’ll keep on trying ‘til I get an answer.” Of the three versions of this song released in 1979, I think this is the best, and it’s one of my favorites from this disc.

“This Kind Of Love Affair” is another of the first disc’s highlights. It too is catchy, particularly its chorus, which makes me feel good every time I listen to it. This one is an original, one of two on this album (the other being the rockin’ “Don’t Hang On”). It does remind a bit of Steve Miller Band’s “Swingtown” at moments. That’s followed by a cover of “Lost In Your Eyes,” a song written by Tom Petty. It was also recorded by Don Johnson and The Jeff Healey Band. And apparently it was recorded by Tom Petty with Mudcrutch in the mid-1970s, but not released until 2016 on an unofficial and rare, limited edition CD titled Early Songs. If anyone has a lead on where I can get a copy of that, please let me know. Anyway, The Searchers do an excellent job with it. “Just because it could have been/Doesn’t mean it had to/Ever mean a thing.” The Searchers also do an excellent version of Bob Dylan’s “Coming From The Heart (The Road Is Long),” a song that was recorded for Street Legal, but left off that album. Apparently Dylan performed it only once in concert, on Halloween 1978. I love the section with the backing vocals in the second half of the song. Bob Jackson plays keys on both “Lost In Your Eyes” and “Coming From The Heart.”

“It’s Too Late” is a good rock song written by John David. “It’s too late to say you love me/It’s too late to say you care/It’s too late to say you’re sorry/It’s too late, you weren’t there/When I needed you.” The bonus tracks include an alternate mix of this song. “It’s Too Late” is followed by “No Dancing,” another good rock number, this one with a bit of a punk sound. “And if you start to waving your arms/That’s when the bouncers lose their charm/Moving all around the floor/You see that notice on the door/And it says no dancing is allowed.” The bonus tracks on the first disc also include alternate mixes of two songs from the band’s next album, 1980’s Love’s Melodies – “Love’s Melody” and “Silver.”

The second disc contains the complete 1980 LP Love’s Melodies, plus bonus tracks. It opens with “Silver,” an upbeat pop song written by Dave Paul. That’s followed by a cover of Randy Bishop’s “Infatuation,” a song that would appear on the Randy Bishop & The Underdogs’ Dangerous Infatuation album (the album title combining two song titles). This is a song that asks that eternal question, Is it infatuation or is it love? The Searchers also do a good cover of John Fogerty’s “Almost Saturday Night,” which was included on Fogerty’s 1975 self-titled record and also released as a single. Dave Edmunds also released it as a single, the year after The Searchers’ version came out.

As on the previous album, The Searchers include two original tracks on Love’s Melodies. The first is “Little Bit Of Heaven,” which is one of the disc’s highlights. Is it just me, or does the guitar part at times remind you of The Police? “I’ve never been alone before on nights like these/Never, never cried a tear to sad melodies.” The second is “Another Night,” which closes the album. It’s a strong track, featuring some good vocal work.

“Love’s Melody,” the album’s title track (sort of), is a cool and kind of sweet pop song that kicks off with a driving beat on the drums. It was written by Andy McMasters and originally recorded by Ducks Deluxe. “You’re looking for love, but it don’t come along/And just when the feeling is right, then something goes wrong.” Probably the best song on this album is “Murder In My Heart,” written by Ronnie Thomas. It has a great driving beat, some wonderful work on guitar and a lively vocal performance. “I got a little trigger twitching in my brain/And when that itching starts/Murder in my heart.” I recommend checking out this song. It’s followed by a cover of Big Star’s “September Gurls,” a song that has also been covered by The Bangles and Squire. I like The Searchers’ version, but of course this is an inherently delicious song, and it’s hard to imagine an artist messing it up.

The second disc contains four bonus tracks, including one that was previously unreleased. The first is a cover of Chris Kenner’s classic rock and roll number “Sick And Tired.” This track was included on Play For Today, the UK version of Love’s Melodies, and it’s a whole lot of fun. “Oh baby, hey, what you gonna do/You know I’m sick and tired of foolin’ around with you.” That’s followed by “Changing,” which was released as the flip side of the “Love’s Melody” single. This is an original track, about a couple that is changing and is having trouble as a result. “I don’t know the answer/To this love affair/But I know I’m losing you/I’m a broken man.” The final two tracks were written by John Hiatt. The first, “Back To The War,” was the flip side to “Another Night.” The song’s main line “Let’s get back to the war” of course reminds me of the line from Leonard Cohen’s “There Is A War,” “Why don’t you come on back to the war.” And check out these lines: “And I consciously object to your weapons detector/Hedging bets in the private sector/I don’t have to salute you/But I might have to shoot you.” John Hiatt’s version can be heard on his Two Bit Monsters LP. The last song, “Ambulance Chaser,” was previously unreleased. It’s a quirky and kind of delightful tune. “No justice that I can face/Even though you’re already on my case/Ambulance chaser/Follow that siren, I’m wrapped up around a tree.”

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Hearts In Her Eyes
  2. Switchboard Susan
  3. Feeling Fine
  4. This Kind Of Love Affair
  5. Lost In Your Eyes
  6. It’s Too Late
  7. No Dancing
  8. Coming From The Heart
  9. Don’t Hang On
  10. Love’s Gonna Be Strong
  11. It’s Too Late (Alternate Mix)
  12. Love’s Melody (Alternate Mix)
  13. Silver (Alternate Mix) 
Disc Two
  1. Silver
  2. Infatuation
  3. She Made A Fool Of You
  4. Almost Saturday Night
  5. Little Bit Of Heaven
  6. You Are The New Day
  7. Love’s Melody
  8. Everything But A Heartbeat
  9. Radio Romance
  10. Murder In My Heart
  11. September Gurls
  12. Another Night
  13. Sick And Tired
  14. Changing
  15. Back To The War
  16. Ambulance Chaser
Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981 is scheduled to be released on December 8, 2017 through Omnivore Recordings.

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