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Fiona Hutchings reflects on the history of Scottish rock/pop act Del Amitri, who, to coincide with their first tour in a decade, are about to have three of their albums, 1989's 'Waking Hours', 1992's 'Change Eveything' and 1995's 'Twisted', re-released in double CD editions
Universal Music Catalogue's intent for the Re-presents label is to take "classic retro albums and re-masters and re-present them in an exciting 2-CD package." That is a lot of re. The danger with expanded
reissues is that too often the expanded bit ends up sounding like cuttings from the mixing studio floor. I have had my fingers burnt more than once by forking out for an album I already own to find the new bits are rough demos, ill conceived and executed remixes and random cover versions I can happily live without. So, it is fair to say that I approached these re-mastered, re-packaged, re-released albums from Glasgow's Del Amitri with some caution.
After a false start in 1980, Del Amitri were formed in 1983 by singer, main songwriter and owner of impressive sideburns Justin Currie and guitarist Iain Harvie. According to the band's website (http://delamitri.com), their name was originally Del Amitri Riazlo and was chosen simply to confuse the public and any other reasons or meanings you may have read are "fabrications."
Despite a consistent catalogue of albums since 1985's self titled debut, Del Amitri have never quite received the commercial success they deserved. 'Change Everything' may have been kept off the number one spot in the album charts by the unstoppable official soundtrack for 'The Bodyguard'. It did, however, break the UK Top 10, but somehow none of their singles ever broke the UK Top 10. Perhaps they just couldn't make themselves heard properly over the noise of grunge and then Britpop.
'Waking Hours' was the group's second album, and signalled a more mature and less punky vibe than their debut. It features one of their most successful singles in the slow tempo classic 'Nothing Ever Happens', but my personal favourite remains the more upbeat and breezy 'Kiss This Thing Goodbye'. These two tracks neatly sum up the range of tracks from upbeat poppy rock to slow tempo musings on banality. The track 'Hatful of Rain' was later the title of the band's 1999 greatest hits compilation.
'Change Everything' takes in the soulful rock of 'Always the Last to Know' to the country-inspired 'As Soon as the Tide Comes In' via the jangly guitar and folk-tinged 'Be My Downfall'. Perhaps the more classic sound just wasn't deemed hip enough or it got lost in the confusion of euro pop, new r'n'b, old soul classics and, er, Mr Bean that crowded the charts in 1992. The album came out at a time when everyone from Nirvana to Michael Jackson were riding the wave of success. Del Amitri managed to swim, but were denied the attention they deserved.
'Twisted' scored a number three spot on the 'Q' Top 10 albums of 1995 list. It features electric guitars much more prominently. and in 'Roll to Me' delivered the bands most successful single which went top 10 in the US. For my money 'Driving with the Brakes On' is actually a superior track, a beautiful but bittersweet meditation on affairs of the heart. Despite releasing two different UK versions, the final single from the album 'Tell Her This' barely bothered the Top 40. It is another gorgeous song, but was perhaps a little too introspective and gentle to stand a chance against the raucous 'Three Lions' or hip hop soul of the Fugees. Maybe there is some consolation for the band in the fact that these albums sound far less dated than many of their contemporaries.
From the beginning Del Amiti managed to sound sincere as well as easily confident and Currie's vocals are instantly recognisable. All three albums, from 1989, 1992 and 1995 respectively are consistent and full of hooks, stories and you just can't help but sing along. What of the half dreaded extras though? In this case they are well considered and a genuinely valuable extra. Yes, there is the odd remix lurking on the second disc, but there is also a bounty of complete B-sides and some fabulous live versions too. Further more you will be treated to new sleeve notes courtesy of music journalist Terry Staunton and upgraded art work featuring many rare photos and other memorabilia. This is what expanded editions should be like.
Del Amitri will be touring the UK for the first time in over a decade in January and February 2014. It isn't just all the original members, they even have the original crew and promise to play all their hits as they run through 'The A to Z of Us'.
Have a Listen:-