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Blue Nile - Peace At Last

  by Jon Rogers

published: 3 / 4 / 2014

Blue Nile - Peace At Last
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


In our 'Re: View' section, in which our writers look back at albums from the past, Jon Rogers examines the Blue Nile's 1996 third album 'Peace At Last', which has just been re-released in a deluxe version with an extra CD

It was a bittersweet period for Scottish band the Blue Nile after the release of their second album 'Hats' in October 1989. The album itself had been something of a breakthrough album for the trio of Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore. Not only had it been a commercial success - reaching #12 in the UK charts - it had picked up acres of critical praise, perhaps most notably by Stuart Maconie's five-star glowing review in 'Q'. The album broke them out of the small clique of 'those in the know' who prized them as a closely guarded secret. Perhaps more importantly it really introduced the USA to the band (and vice versa), where the album had a (minor) impact on the Billboard chart, reaching 108. Radio picked up on songs like 'The Downtown Lights' and tastemakers extolled their virtues as a band to watch. Amongst those that wanted a little more sophistication in their music from the usual pop frothy-foam, the Blue Nile were held in high-regard and Buchanan was widely admired. He even moved over the pond to live in Los Angeles for a number of years and embarked on a relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette in 1991. So far, so good. But it was not all quite as picture-perfect as that. Record label Virgin, keen to capitalise on the success of 'Hats', were pushing for a quick follow-up, and the band were collectively suffering from a bout of what could loosely described as writer's block. What fragments the band had, they were not happy with anyway. With the band not fulfilling their contractual obligations they were dumped by Virgin and took up with Warner Bros. Then there was the question of just where to record the follow-up to 'Hats'. Their previous albums had been recorded at Castlesound near Edinburgh, but the band were determined to find somewhere new and had a little money in their back pocket from the Warners deal. The question was where. And so the search began, including places like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Venice but nowhere seemed to fit. It does some rather appropriate for a band that has only produced four albums since it was formed in 1981 that it took them almost seven years to bring out a successor to their commercially most successful album, with 'Peace At Last' eventually seeing the light of day in June 1996. The album marked something of a departure for the band as 'Peace At Last' marked a move away from synthesizers (although not entirely) to more focus on the guitars. Perhaps this was due, in part, as the album was recorded in various locations in Paris, Dublin and LA, and it is easier to transport a guitar rather than a stack of electronic equipment. As such the album, although still cohesive, has something of an itinerant feel to it. Although far from disjointed and scrappy, it does not quite fit together as with previous albums. Still, the band's high-quality standards are very much intact, and Buchanan's song-writing ability is as strong as ever. While 'Peace At Last ' may be the one Blue Nile album that gets rather overlooked, it does contain some real gems that stand as some of the band's finest and display their perfectionist song writing craft. The real stand out though is the heartbreaking 'Family Life' - a stripped down, haunting desolate song comprising, largely, just piano and Buchanan's mournful and stark lyrics: "Just separate chairs in separate rooms; Jesus, please, make us happy sometimes." Elsewhere the band introduce a wilder musical palate to their blueprint with touches of gospel and country splashed across the album mixed in with their lovelorn songs and hopes of salvation and redemption. While the album is probably ready for re-assessment the raison d'être for this remastered deluxe version is the addition of a bonus disc. 'Soon', 'War is Love' and 'Holy Love' all get the remix treatment which act to add a bit of substance to some of the album's weaker songs and some flesh to the bones. The real gems though are a demo version of 'A Certain Kind of Angel' and the previously unreleased 'There Was a Girl' - a heartbreaking tale of lost love; as ever, beautifully constructed and executed by the band. It is the sort of song that most groups would kill for in order to write. It is perhaps a mark of The Blue Nile's high standards that a song like 'There Was a Girl' gets discarded. 'Peace At Last' may be flawed in places and perhaps the most neglected of the band's output, but it is still a very worthy addition to anyone's collection.

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Blue Nile - Peace At Last

Blue Nile - Peace At Last

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