Sunday, 28 April 2013
104 Shanty - Roy White
Purchased : 10 September 1988
Tracks : Stand In Line / Don't Stop Tomorrow / Sophie's Choice / Criminal Mind / Shanty / Strange To Be With You / Shoot Myself / Nothing To Remind Me / Angel Loves Joe / Ice On The Sun / Reputation / Lest We Forget
This one was found in the bargain bin at Save Records in Rochdale on my way up to Spotland for the coach to Scarborough ( we drew 3-3 apparently but I've no memory of the game ) .
This was another punt as not only had I not heard anything from the LP I didn't even know it existed. I knew of Roy from the band White and Torch who nudged the charts ( number 54 ) with the single "Parade" in the autumn of 1982 after appearing on the David Essex Showcase. It's a terrific song , a Walker Brothers-inspired ballad of sexual jealousy which all too aptly chimed with my mood at the time. My schoolgirl crush had just started going out with my rival after over a year's pursuit and there were hints that he'd taken her virginity. Roy's voice booming out "knowing that you sleep with him !" still soundtracks those memories. They brought out another single "Bury My Heart" in late 83 which got a bit of support from David Jensen and is also pretty good but after that they vanished from view and I didn't know that Roy had put out any solo material.
This LP came out in 1985 and sank without trace as did a couple of singles taken from it. The single was co-produced by Roy and one Godwin Logie and that leads to an immediate problem before we discuss individual tracks. It's all very 1982 with crashing Linn drums ( courtesy of long time Elton John sidekick Charlie Morgan ), steely bass lines, gospelly backing vocals and pin-sharp Oriental keyboard and percussion noises. It sounded horribly dated in 1988 and would have done in 1985. It's a shame because Roy had - hopefully still has - a great voice, Scott Walker via Julian Cope with a touch of Billy McKenzie, and the two backing singers on here, Jaq Robinson and Di Wright , both of whom went on to work with The Grid, are no slouches either.
But neither powerful voices nor noisy over-production can compensate for Roy's glaring deficiencies as a songwriter ( suggesting that Steve Torch, now part of the Xenomania team had the musical chops in their brief partnership ). Far too often the lines in the lyrics don't seem connected to the one before, just sound-bites glued together in the forlorn hope that they'll somehow cohere into a song. The songs are melodic enough to pass muster but there's nothing that you come away singing and neither single was an obvious choice.
So Side One starts with "Stand In Line" a song of noisy undefined defiance and overdone whooping backing vocals that points the way towards Deacon Blue. Then comes "Don't Stop Tomorrow" a bass-heavy song which is every bit as meaningless as the title suggests. "Sophie's Choice" has nothing to do with the Meryl Streep film of the same name and seems to allude to prostitution but there's nothing to hook you for a second listen. "Criminal Mind" at least had me struggling to think what its intro sounded like and I eventually came up with the Christians' debut single Forgotten Town . As the song progresses it resembles more Paul Young's No Parlez - whose parent album was another , albeit more successful, exercise in over-production and quite possibly an influence - in having a nagging chant for a chorus.
The title track might be about unemployment in a vague way and injects some rock bombast with Jim Mealy's squally guitar breaks but again the song isn't strong enough and the long instrumental coda is boring and pointless. "Strange To Be With You" was one of the single choices, perhaps because of its simpler lyric of devotion, and has a slower tempo but it's only really notable for the incongruous and inaudible presence of sixties survivor Andy Fairweatherlow on backing vocals.
After the slim pickings of Side One, the second side starts with the empty gusto of "Shoot Myself" which begs the response "Go on then" and follows that with the all-too-aptly titled "Nothing To Remind Me."
Then it does get a little better. "Angel Loves Joe" finally has a recognisable song structure and a decent semi-comic lyric about sexual inadequacy. Roy pulls out a neat vocal trick in the chorus with a stretched note that you don't expect. It's a bit too bludgeoning to love but a step in the right direction.
Roy plays all the keyboards on the LP and "Ice On The Sun" has some nice touches but otherwise it's the same empty bombast as before. "Reputation" has a passable chorus but loses your goodwill with a sudden ( shades of Rush ) switch to a jazz coda with Fairlight trumpet.
That just leaves "Lest We Forget" ( the other single ) which benefits from a relatively subdued production - a bit late in the day but still. It's a decent piece of Gothy synth pomp somewhere between Depeche Mode and Propaganda, the latter influence made more obvious by the lyric being partly in German.
Roy didn't get to make another solo LP but resurfaced as lead singer in the early nineties band King Of Fools. They made an album of would-be arena rock in the Simple Minds mould but didn't break through. He still sings with a group called The Truemen but his time has long since gone.