BLACK Between Two Churches Nero Schwarz Nero CD10(2005)
Those of you with late-eighties memories and of melodic persuasion may remember Colin Vearncombe, otherwise known as Black, whose first three albums hit paydirt and who is perhaps best known for the hit single 'Wonderful Life'.
Vearncombe remained sub-radar in the nineties although his music was still available via the Internet. Now, after a ten-year album hiatus, Black is back having trialled many of these new songs on the road. This is probably a shrewd move, as there's a sense that in the road-testing he's stripped things lean...and all the better for it. No prolonged eighties musing and synths to cramp the style here.
This latest CD has the guitar upfront, and Black (because he still wants to be called that) sometimes recalls Richard Thompson ('Teenage Wall', 'Same Mistake Twice'). And, in other moments, the sonority of his fellow late-eighties traveller James Grant of Love And Money ('Charlemagne').
But chiefly it's the songs that shine through, which is to be expected. Black seems to take the sixties as musical inspiration: a quietly quiffed vibe permeates this CD as evidenced on openers 'Come Out Of The Rain' and 'Cold Chicken Skin, the latter with a 'Come Together' insistency.
The uptempo stuff stands out - especially the title track with its quietly persistent guitar riff - but the slower 'In A Heartbeat' and 'Her Coat And No Knickers' recalls the classic late-eighties period.
And the 'hit' is reprised again in the shape of 'Are You Having A Wonderful Life?' - the lyrics providing insight to an artist trapped in a song's early spotlight and perhaps damned because of it.
So, essentially, this will appeal to old fans as well as the new. Production by Calum MacColl (Ronan Keating, Natalie Imbruglia) gives the album a slick sheen. A welcome return and a surefire return-to-form.