Thursday, 1 November 2012
95 Tornado - The Rainmakers
Purchased : 3 August 1988
Tracks : Snakedance / Tornado Of Love / The Wages Of Sin / Small Circles / No Romance / One More Summer / The Lakeview Man / Rainmaker / I Talk With My Hands / The Other Side Of The World
This was bought on cassette from Woolworth's in Ashton-under-Lyne and must have been the result of a brainstorm on my part buying an album at full price on the strength of one song heard once.
Like most people I first came across Kansas City's The Rainmakers when they hit the UK charts early in 1987 with the single "Let My People Go-Go" after Simon Bates picked up on it. Unfortunately they then fell foul of Top Of The Pops producer Michael Hurll who refused to let a thoughtful slice of US college rock interrupt the "party" vibe and ruined their appearance by tellling the audience to whoop and clap over every other beat as they might for the latest Black Lace offering. The single still went up 10 places the following week but its follow-up was ignored. I heard nothing more from them until early 1988 when Bruno Brookes ( a DJ I absolutely detested but credit where it's due ) gave a spin to their new single "Small Circles" which grabbed me on first listen which was just as well as I never heard it on radio again. Its presence here was the main spur to the purchase.
"Snakedance" the opening track was a single in the USA and, like the album ( their second ) , made a minor impact in the Billboard charts. It's not that far away from "Let My People Go-Go" with the same sledgehammer drumming , Rob Walkenhorst's over-enunciated Midwestern vocals ( not quite as mannered as Stannard Ridgeway ) and blaring brass sounds. It doesn't have the Biblical lyrics but the same intent to create a universalist call for community; the second verse namechecks Boston, Texas and Los Angeles which let's face it is as near to universal as most people from their neck of the woods. It's a bit too blustery for my tastes.
"Tornado Of Love" is a bizarre meld of influences that starts out like Billy Idol, then the guitar sounds more like The Cult's Billy Duffy. It's a pacey tale of post-nuclear survival with some biting lyrics but it's rather marred by the upfront drum sound usually to be found on Mutt Lange's work. This is particularly intrusive on the coda where the melancholy keyboards have to contend with the beat getting faster and faster to no purpose.
"The Wages Of Sin" sounds like a slowed-down re-write of "Let's Stick Together" with Walkenhorst tackling the New Testament this time with references to the Bad Thief and Mary Magdalene and sounds like a challenge to the Protestant work ethic -" The wages of sin the reward of fear, is worrying and fretting every second of the year". Again the flashy production doesn't quite mesh with the blue collar earthiness of the song.
Then we come to "Small Circles" a song which combines the best of Springsteen ( the narrative of proletarian first lovers now drifted apart and the sax break ) and The Smiths ( the very Marr-ish ringing guitar work ) . The last couple of verses detailing the hardening effects of adult materialism ( let's not forget they'd still got Reagan at this point ) are particularly compelling - "I wish I cared but I don't know how". The drums are still too loud but the song's so strong you hardly notice.
"No Romance" extends the theme of that last line quoted above as it's sung from the viewpoint of someone who's lost faith in the idea of love - "You might find lines but no valentines written all over my face". The tumbling melody is very attractive and the musical arrangement - heavy beat and synths , not too far from Dancing In The Dark - suits the more introspective nature of the song.
Side Two's opener "One More Summer" is very disappointing coming after two class tracks. It sounds like an amped-up version of Springsteen's Spare Parts and the subtle lyric about a disillusioned old man is negated by the tuneless thud that frames it.
"The Lakeview Man" updates Credence Clearwater Revival adding a crashing eighties beat to a swamp rock tale of a wild man or ghost living in the woods. Good if you like that sort of thing.
"Rainmaker" is more to my tastes being a rollicking, critique of consumerism with a fat , bouncing bassline from Rich Ruth and a good tune.
It's followed by the worst track. "I Talk With My Hands" is a half-written song about a breakdown in civilisation padded out to wearisome length with over produced bombast , crashing drums, Fairlight brass, female backing vocals, the works. It reminds me somewhat of Frankie's Rage Hard in its noisy vacuity.
They redeem themselves on the closer "The Other Side Of The World" a cheery celebration of music's power to unite with a good guitar riff and killer chorus. There's a very amusing second verse about England - "Between the Royal Wedding and the kids on the dole" but that's forgivable.
The album didn't chart in the UK and the band broke up when the next one failed everywhere but mainland Europe. They reformed in the mid-nineties to take advantage of enduring popularity in Scandinavia releasing two more albums before dissolving again in 1998. They're currently having a third crack having re -formed again last year.
This is their only entry here - I borrowed the debut LP from a friend and wasn't that excited by it so interest in the group faded away. They definitely had potential but perhaps compromised too much with the production when the tide was turning towards a rootsier approach. That said, this LP is a harbinger of other purchases soon to come ; I'll leave readers to guess the bands in question.