Sunday, November 15, 2015

CUTTING CREW: SPAZ reviews Add To Favourites!

Poor Cutting Crew. Most people assume that they scored a homerun with their 1986 hit “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” and never lived up to that slice of Pop glory.  However, that’s not the full story.  You see, Cutting Crew fell victim to commercial radio and critics labeling them as a lightweight Pop band and not realizing that there was much more to them than slick Pop fodder.  When they followed it up with the tender “I’ve Been In Love Before” here in the U.S., their fate was sealed. However, anyone who bought the albums heard a band with a lot more edge and bite – still slick and commercial but much more AOR than popsters like Johnny Hates Jazz or some of their other contemporaries.  OK, some may shudder at the term AOR, but the band really had some great songs, nice arrangements and real depth. Their first two albums  -Broadcast and The Scattering – are filled with Pop smarts and Rock influences that should have been taken a bit more seriously.  By the time their third album, Compus Mentus, was released in 1992, the band was down to the duo of Nick Van Eede (guitar/vocals) and Kevin MacMichael (lead guitar). The album, unreleased in the U.S., took the Cutting Crew sound in a more soulful direction and was just as good, if not better, than their previous releases.  Unfortunately, not many others felt that way and Nick and Kevin split up the act the following year (sadly, Kevin passed away in 2002). There was a Cutting Crew album called Grinning Souls released in 2005 but it flew so far under the radar that this writer has been unable to find a copy for a decent price (note to self: remember to go on internet after writing this review and search!)

Surprisingly, Nick has resurfaced in 2015 with the fifth Cutting Crew album and it will surprise anyone unfamiliar with their material apart from the singles. If you are expecting more of the same slick C-Crew sound, then brace yourself: Nick Van Eede and Co. have released an album that maintains the high songwriting standards that fans love them for yet travels a completely different musical path.  Instead of slick AOR and Pop, Add To Favourites owes more to classic Van Morrison records than anyone else. The warm, predominantly acoustic and rootsy sound of the band is accented by horns, backing vocalist, a touch of Soul and Gospel, a real sense of fun and plenty of great songs.  Van Eede’s voice sounds as great as ever albeit with more conviction than the band’s commercial glory days.  “Till The Money Runs Out,” “Looking For A Friend,” “She Just Happened To Be (Beautiful),” “Berlin In Winter” and “As Far As I Can See” are high points on an album that exceeds expectations on all levels.

And remember how the old C-Crew albums were slickly produced?  Add To Favourites is relaxed and even a bit rough around the edges compared to their past albums. There is also a lot more honesty on display here.  One may immediately jump to the conclusion that the band has gone Americana, but that is not the case here.  They’ve just reached back and embraced what it was that inspired them in the beginning.  Touching, humble and straightforward, Cutting Crew have released the best full album of their career.  It may not be their most commercially viable or have those massive hit singles, but it is definitely worthy to be heard by a lot more than just fans of their ‘80s material.  You really need to drop all the preconceptions and give it a spin.  A lovely album, indeed. 

Also available on Cherry Red:

Broadcast (Expanded Edition)
The Scattering (Expanded Edition)

Peace, love and pancakes,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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