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Welsh guitarist Spike is back with two releases, compilation odf old tracks with Debbie Pritchard and a brand new album with Young Marble Giants’ Alison Statton. Tommy Gunnarsson finds them mostly enjoyable, but for the already converted.
It may come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of Wales’ finest, Young Marble Giants. Their only album, ‘Colossal youth’, is one of my all-time favourite records, and I’m really sad that I missed catching them on their reunion tours a few years ago.
But, although there has only been one YMG album, all members have continued making music on their own (more or less) after the split in 1980. Primary songwriter Stuart Moxham is the most prolific artist on his own, releasing a string of albums with various collaborators over the years, while singer Alison Statton went on to form Weekend with guitarist Spike immediately after YMG’s demise. Meanwhile, Stuart’s brother Phil has contributed his bass playing on several of his former bandmates’ projects.
Now, Tiny Global Productions are releasing two albums with connections to YMG – a compilation of Spike’s work with singer Debbie Pritchard from 1980 to 1995 (‘Always Sunshine, Always Rain’) and a brand-new album from Spike and the aforementioned Alison Statton, entitled ‘Bimini Twist’.
So, let’s begin with the Spike & Debbie compilation then, shall we? The songs are presented in roughly chronological order, starting off with ‘Always Sunshine’, a song where Debbie’s fragile voice and sparse arrangement could well have been recorded by the Marine Girls (Tracey Thorn’s first band and contemporaries of YMG, whose second album ‘Lazy Ways’ was produced by Stuart Moxham).
From then on, the songs move more and more towards different tropical styles, like calypso. And that’s where they lose me. They are exceptions, like ‘Assured Energy’, which was also recorded by Stuart’s band The Gist (which is not very surprising when you hear this version). This is an interesting archival dig into the years that passed after YMG decided to call it a day, but overall this is just a record for the already converted, I would say.
Moving on to the new Alison & Spike album, then. This is the first album the pair have recorded together since ‘The Shady Tree’ in 1997 (the last in a series of releases under the monikers Weekend and Alison Statton & Spike through the 80s and 90s). Even after an absence of 20 years, their musical style hasn’t changed that much, really. It’s still some kind of blend between bossa-nova, jazz and folk, sometimes all in one song. This can make them sound a bit messy, but mostly, they are easily listened to. It’s always nice to hear Alison’s voice, which has changed a bit since her time with YMG. Back then, it sounded like she was bored while waiting for the bus and passed the time by singing a little. Now there’s a bit more soul in her vocal delivery, which is not a bad thing at all. I could, however, have done with some better songs, actually.
All in all, I think both these albums will be primarily interesting for huge fans of YMG and all their off-shoots, rather than winning over many new fans. But if you enjoyed the sole Weekend album back in the early 80s, these releases are probably something you should check out!
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