I've always liked David Essex and his albums from the1970s…and I know that some of you regular readers are to shy (wimps) to get on this blog and say the same but let's sing out the joys of David Essex.
Having said that, this is from 1983 and I fear the worst.
1983 was a shoulder year. The big, bombastic, overproduced sound which typified a lot of 80s mainstream was about to hit.
Essex (see my other comments on him for biographical details etc) was always a quirky performer who had some good pop hooks in him but mainstream 80s sound could kill anyone.
He was a big, big English star (with some overseas presence) in the mid 70s but by the early 1980s his commercial popularity was diminishing. His two previous albums "Hot Love" (1980) and "Bop the Future" (1981) weren’t big hits.
He needed something.
"A Winter’s Tale" was written by Mike Batt and Tim Rice in 1982 in response, apparently, to a request from Essex. It was released as a single in December 1982 and peaked at #2 on the UK charts. "Tahiti" a song from the West End musical "Mutiny!", that Essex was starring in, was then released and went to #8 in England (1983). This set the stage for another album … this one.
Essex decided to collaborate further with Mike Batt. He recorded some of Batt's songs and Batt sang some backing vocals, played some guitar and co produced this album.
The two charting songs were added to various versions of the album in an obvious attempt to increase the sell-ability of the album.
It didn't work, the album didn't do well.
Oddly, on this Australian version neither of the hit songs is included on the album. Then again "A Winter's Tale" only got to #33 in Australia…. and the album didn't chart.
Essex's career, always a mishmash of music, film and entertainment went more mainstream but that doesn't mean he didn't put out some good music … even in the 80s.
He was never out of step with what was happening around him but he was quirky enough to distinguish himself from contemporaries.
Luckily, this album doesn't envelop itself in 80s production. It is "big" in parts, and it is slick and there is brass and saxes but then again this was always in Essex's music. He was initially successful during the "glam" era after all. There are nods to new wave sounds, rap, synth arrangements and even a little cheesy Caribbean funk but they are, generally, in the back ground. The best of his music though was in the commitment to form and the determined quirkiness. Here we have Essex trying some new things, but there are obvious traces of his former sound running throughout.
Accordingly the album comes out as neither contemporary nor retro.
It comes out as a David Essex album …instantly identifiable, slightly out of touch and engaging
All sings written by Davis Essex unless indicated otherwise.
Tracks (best in italics)
- The Whisper – strange …and the tile song. Very much a song from Essex in the 70s though with a bigger clearer sound.
- You're In My Heart – a gentle ballad which in other hands would have been pure mush. Here it's just mush but quirky mush, and catchy. Perhaps there is a nod to Yazoo in the melody.
- Down Again – More Essex from the 70s and with a little influence of his former regular producer, Jeff Wayne. There is a nice guitar solo in the bridge which is probably Chris Spedding.
- Fishing For The Moon – (Mike Batt) – sweet and semi orchestral in sound. Quite typical of Batt who wrote Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes". It's pleasant but not distinctive.
- Ears Of The City – (Mike Batt) – this sounds, lyrically, a little like 80s Bowie. It's naff but pleasant.
- Love, Oh Love – quite strange. This reminds me of some of the more eccentric P.J. Proby recordings from the 80s. Essex sings in a different pitch to normal (as he does on a couple of songs on this album). This is strangely endearing.
- Moonlight Dancing – wtf …Essex raps. The song is clearly a cash in on the success of Blondie's "Rapture" mix of pop and hip hop.
- Love Is A Stranger – Essex is trying to be new wave here … it's awful
- Ernesto – you've got to admire any song about Che Guevara. This could have come from a stage show but with the gentle Caribbean rhythms and straight faced lyric this is quite eccentric, but I like it.
- Two Runaways – more New Wave … something like The Psychedelic Furs or David Bowie slumming it. Again this is naff but this is catchy and I think the "naffness" comes from the fact that you don't expect Essex to be singing it. If someone else was doing it you'd think it was a pretty good song.
Patchy but not as bad as some critics would have you believe. Essex is surprising as always …. I'm keeping it.
1983 You're In My Heart #59
1984 Fishing For The Moon #76
A Winter's Tale
- Personnel: David Essex : vocals / Chris Spedding : guitars / Martin Bliss : guitars / Rod Demicks : bass / Pete May : drums / Ray Cooper : percussion / Mike Batt : keyboards / Pete Giles : keyboards / Produced by : Mike Batt and David Essex