Tag: Altered Images

A Beginner’s Guide To MARTIN RUSHENT

Although he became a noted producer during the height of punk, it was with THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ that Martin Rushent’s reputation as an electronic music pioneer was forged.

Rushent had cut his teeth as an engineer for acts as varied as SHIRLEY BASSEY and T-REX, working under the wing of their respective producers Johnny Harris and Tony Visconti.

His first major production was for CURVED AIR on their ‘Air Cut’ album; it featured Jim Russell on drums who became later became one of Rushent’s engineers and joined THE HUMAN LEAGUE for their ‘Crash’ tour.

He then secured a lucrative role working for United Artists, the company famously founded by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Mary Pickford and DW Griffith, as an in-house producer with A&R responsibilities.

It was in this position that he found major success working with THE STRANGLERS and BUZZCOCKS. Meanwhile his freelance clause allowed him to also produce bands like GENERATION X, 999 and THE REZILLOS whose guitarist Jo Callis was later to join THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

It was in 1978 at the height of his punk success that Radar Records, an offshoot of Warners who had Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe on their roster, offered Rushent an opportunity to start his own label and production company. Radar had been founded by the team that had hired Rushent for United Artists and the offer included funding to build what was to become his Genetic Sound Studios complex at his home in Reading.

With his new office based above The Blitz Club and a desire to move away from guitar bands, Rushent became fascinated by the New Romantic movement and its electronic soundtrack provided by their resident DJ Rusty Egan. Egan had started a project with Midge Ure named VISAGE fronted by the now sadly departed Steve Strange. Their demos had been offered to EMI but were turned down…

“Martin Rushent turned punk into pop with THE STRANGLERS and BUZZCOCKS and was the hottest punk producer in 1977-78” Rusty Egan told The Electricity Club, “He had no idea about synths, he was a rock producer but knew ULTRAVOX, MAGAZINE and RICH KIDS were disbanded. But his musical hunch was ‘they must come up with something’”.

Sensing that something was in the air, Rushent invited VISAGE to use his studio to see what they came up with. These sessions, which also featured ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie plus MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula, the late John McGeoch and Barry Adamson, intrigued Rushent.

“We came with our equipment and no drum kit” recalled Egan about that visit to Genetic Sound Studios which was still being built, “I had the CR78 and the Simmons SDS3 prototype which Richard Burgess gave us; Midge had a Yamaha CS50, Billy had an RMI Electra Piano, Elka Rhapsody 610 and the ARP Odyssey while Dave brought his Yamaha CP30, ARP Odyssey and Yamaha string machine. We ran sequenced drums and layered, we had SMPTE timecode as MIDI did not come in for years, so we triggered and I hit drum pads and we created the sounds… Martin had never seen this type of recording”.

Despite the promising material coming from VISAGE, Warners pulled the plug on Radar and immediate plans for Genetic Records became stillborn. In hindsight, this move was extremely short sighted on Warners part as it was rumoured Rushent had been in discussions with JOY DIVISION, ULTRAVOX and SPANDAU BALLET.

Despite this set back, this experience helped Rushent realise that music production moving towards being more computer-driven, so he bought a Roland MC8 Micro-composer along with a Roland System 700 and Jupiter 4.

A strong advocate of clarity in instrument voicing and as a former drummer, how drum sounds were achieved, the availability of the Linn LM1 Drum Computer in 1981 was the final piece in the jigsaw and the set-up helped Rushent realise his vision. The rest as they say, is history and THE HUMAN LEAGUE scored a No1 with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ on both sides of the Atlantic…

Rushent won the 1982 Brit Award for best producer and went on to produce THE GO-GO’S third album ‘Talk Show’ released in 1984. However, while recording the follow-up to ‘Dare’, a breakdown in his personal life, coupled to deteriorating relations with THE HUMAN LEAGUE led to Rushent leaving the sessions and walking out of his own studio!

Following his divorce, Rushent was forced to sell Genetic Sound Studios to avoid bankruptcy. Despite reducing his workload to more occasional studio recordings with ASSOCIATES, HARD CORPS, THEN JERICO and TWO PEOPLE, Rushent was suffering from depression; realising his heart was no longer in music, he effectively retired from the industry.

Taking time out to raise his family as a single parent, he eventually made a steady return to full album productions with HAZEL O’CONNOR in 2005 and THE PIPETTES in 2010. Buoyed by the huge developments in computer technology, he even presented his own DISCO UNLIMITED project with a track called ‘Itchy Hips’ inspired by his daughter Amy, as well as working with his son James’ band DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? But just as momentum was returning to his music career, Rushent sadly passed away in June 2011, aged 62.

Remembering working with Martin Rushent, Clive Pierce of HARD CORPS said to The Electricity Club: “Personally I felt overwhelmed when in the studio with him as it did feel at times that your precious baby was being bounced around in a manner you would never dream of doing yourself. His deft production work magnified what we were attempting to do ourselves and that’s exactly what great producers do”.

THE PIPETTES’ Ani Saunders who now makes music as ANI GLASS added: “One of the greatest lessons I learnt from Martin was to only spend your time working on music you believe in and not to be afraid to change / amend / cut parts or songs if they’re not good enough. Of course the production and engineering skills I gained working with him were invaluable but I also learnt about how to create the right atmosphere for and during recording, something which I think is often overlooked. When I’m writing pop songs I always ask myself ‘what would Martin do?’ – it helps to keep me in check”.

Focussing primarily on his work with synthesizers and technology, The Electricity Club looks back at the post-punk career of Martin Rushent. With a limit of one track per album project and presented in chronological order, here is a Beginner’s Guide to the late, great man…


THE STRANGLERS Nice N Sleazy (1978)

Making his fortune producing the key tracks of THE STRANGLERS’ career such as ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’, the mutant punk reggae of ‘Nice N Sleazy’ saw a diversion into synthesizers with Dave Greenfield’s spacey blast of swirling Minimoog during the instrumental break. At their Battersea Park in September 1978, the band typically courted controversy when they were accompanied by strippers for the song’s visual embellishment!

Available on THE STRANGLERS album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.thestranglers.net


JOY DIVISION Ice Age (1979 – Released 1997)

Recorded in March 1979, JOY DIVISION spent a day at Eden Studios in London with Martin Rushent, recording a 5 track demo with the view to signing to his Genetic Records label. But afterwards, the band headed to Strawberry Studios in Manchester to record their debut album ’Unknown Pleasures’ with Martin Hannett for Factory Records. However, Rushent always reckoned his version of ‘Ice Age’ was better than the speedier version which ended up on the posthumous ‘Still’ collection in 1981.

Available on the JOY DIVISION boxed set ‘Heart & Soul’ via Rhino Records

http://joydivisionofficial.com


VISAGE Tar (1979)

At Genetic Sound Studios, VISAGE started recording an album. Rusty Egan recalled: “we agreed to use the studio for a weekend with Martin engineering”; the first track from those sessions was ‘Tar’, a cautionary tale about the dangers of smoking. After numerous contractual issues, it was finally released as a single on Genetic Records but within days, Warners closed down his funding source at Radar Records. But encouraged by all the synthesizer technology being used in his studio, Rushent saw the future.

Available on VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Polydor Records

http://www.visage.cc/


PETE SHELLEY Homosapien (1981)

Released on the relaunched Genetic Records via Island Records, ‘Homosapien’ came about after sessions were aborted for BUZZCOCKS fourth album. Rushent suggested to frontman Shelley that the two of them should work on new material using the Roland MC8 Micro-composer and System 700. Now seen as Shelley’s coming out song, a cacophony of synths and 12 string guitar combined for a wonderful futuristic snarl. However, the lyric “Homo Superior in my interior” got it a BBC Radio1 ban.

Available on the PETE SHELLEY album ‘Homosapien’ via Active Distribution Ltd

http://www.buzzcocks.com/_peteshelley/peteshelley.html


THE HUMAN LEAGUE The Sound Of The Crowd (1981)

When presented with the demo of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’, Rushent’s response was “Well, that’s going in the bin”. Phil Oakey objected but the producer snarled back: “You came to me, so I assume that’s because you want hits?”… triggering bursts of System 700 white noise from the Micro-composer for the rhythm track, the combination of obscure lyrics from Ian Burden like “Stroke a pocket with a print of a laughing sound” and a screaming chant gave THE HUMAN LEAGUE their breakthrough hit.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


ALTERED IMAGES Happy Birthday (1981)

While Steve Severin from SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES produced the majority of the ‘Happy Birthday’, the job of turning the title track into the Glaswegian quintet’s breakthrough hit fell to Rushent. Tight ‘n’ bright thanks to his modern production techniques and Glare Grogan’s helium fuelled cutesy vocals and nursery rhyme lyrics, ALTERED IMAGES were denied the No1 spot for 3 weeks by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin’s synth cover of ‘It’s My Party’ and then later, THE POLICE.

Available on ALTERED IMAGES album ‘Happy Birthday: The Best Of’ via Music Club

https://www.facebook.com/ClareGrogansAlteredImages/


ALTERED IMAGES I Could Be Happy (1981)

Combining the precision of the latest programmed technology with live instrumentation, ‘I Could Be Happy’ was close to perfection as one of Rushent’s best productions. Despite being shrouded in melancholy, it was catchy and danceable enough to be a UK Top 10 hit. Rushent produced the parent album ‘Pinky Blue’ but it was given a lukewarm reception by the music press, ultimately causing the original line-up of ALTERED IMAGES to implode.

Available on ALTERED IMAGES boxed set ‘The Epic Years’ via Cherry Red

https://twitter.com/claregrogan2


LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)

Featuring Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ was the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The vocals were virtually unintelligible as the clattering Linn Drum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merged together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune full of the decadent spirit of the times. Rushent produced the duo’s three other singles, while Barnacle went on to become one of the world’s most in-demand session saxophonists.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Leisure+Process


THE LEAGUE UNLIMITED ORCHESTRA Do Or Die (1982)

“The most creative experience I’ve ever had in my life” was how Rushent described the making of ‘Love & Dancing’, an album of tracks from ‘Dare’ specially remixed and re-edited by the producer. Pre-sampling, the material was remixed from the mixing board using a multitude of effects with vocal stutters created by cutting up small portions of tape and splicing them together with the aid of his custom-made ruler. The percussive dub laden barrage of ‘Do Or Die’ was one of the highlights.

Available on THE LEAGUE UNLIMITED ORCHESTRA album ‘Love & Dancing’ via Virgin Records

http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/human-league-in-the-studio/4246


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Fascination (1983)

Tensions were running high with creative differences during the recording sessions for THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s follow-up to ‘Dare’, with Rushent losing enthusiasm for the album project due to conflicts in the studio with Phil Oakey and in particular, Susanne Sulley. The weirdly catchy ‘Fascination’ was the last track to be recorded with Rushent, but he departed before it was mixed, despite Jo Callis’ attempts to mediate. The eventual ‘Hysteria’ album was lukewarm, audibly missing Rushent’s touch.

Extended version available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘A Very British Synthesizer Group’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/thehumanleague/


PETE SHELLEY Telephone Operator (1983)

With Shelley and Rushent developing on ‘Homosapien’ with a more fierce sound, ‘Telephone Operator’ could be seen as an extension lyrically to the themes of its predecessor. The original parent album ‘XL-1’ had a novel bonus track in a computer program for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum which printed lyrics in time with the music and displayed graphics, there was a locking groove before the code so that its bleeps and squeaks could not be played accidentally.

Available on PETE SHELLEY album ‘XL-1’ by Active Distribution Ltd

https://www.discogs.com/artist/28754-Pete-Shelley


HAZEL O’CONNOR Don’t Touch Me (1984)

When endorsing Korg’s PSS-50 Programmable Super Section for a magazine advert, Rushent was enthusing about a record which “apart from voice” was “all written and performed on one synth” – that album was HAZEL O’CONNOR’s ‘Smile’. From it, the moody single ‘Don’t Touch Me’ was very art school Weimar Cabaret with some very passionate vocals from O’Connor, constructed around a Synclavier with its distinct period bass and brass sounds.

Available on HAZEL O’CONNOR album ‘Smile’ via Cherry Red

http://www.hazeloconnor.com


ASSOCIATES Breakfast (1985)

Rushent worked with Billy Mackenzie on five tracks for ‘Perhaps’, the much anticipated recorded return of ASSOCIATES. ‘Waiting For The Love Boat’ was one of those songs, but the recording which stood out from the sessions was the epic string laden drama of ’Breakfast’. It is possibly Mackenzie’s greatest single moment, the melancholic piano motif setting the scene for an entire film noir in five minutes with its widescreen dramatics and mournful tension.

Available on ASSOCIATES album ‘Singles’ via WEA

http://www.billymackenzie.com


HARD CORPS ‎Je Suis Passée (1985)

Clive Pierce told The Electricity Club: “HARD CORPS, having traditionally self-produced tracks at our resident studio in Brixton relished the prospect of working with Martin on ‘Je Suis Passée’ having been admirers of his work on ‘Love & Dancing’. It was difficult but never the less a total education. That’s the trouble being so close to something it’s difficult to let go. In retrospect I now listen to ’Je Suis Passée’ in awe of what he achieved for the track. The baby was fine”.

Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, version available on the album ‘Clean Tables Have To Be Burnt’ via Minimal Wave Records

https://www.facebook.com/hard-CORPS-217860235015406/


THEN JERICO The Big Sweep (1985)

Pop rockers THEN JERICO were fronted by the handsome if volatile Mark Shaw; their debut single ‘The Big Sweep’ was recorded with Rushent and some help from his new Synclavier. However, due to the track’s anti-tabloid lyrical subject matter, the band’s label London Records initially declined to release the track. So it was self-released as a 1000 limited edition, although the track eventually resurfaced in its club mix on the 12 inch of ‘Muscle Deep’ in 1987.

Available on the THEN JERICO album ‘The Best Of’ via London Records

http://www.thenjerico.com


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Heart Like A Wheel (1990)

Jo Callis told The Electricity Club: “With ‘Heart Like A Wheel’, when The League came to thinking about the follow up to ‘Crash’ (which would become ‘Romantic?’), I thought there might be a good opportunity to try and get ‘the old team’ back together again, which I did manage to achieve for a couple of tunes at least”. With Rushent at the helm again, the result was a tune that recalled the classic pop era of THE HUMAN LEAGUE more than either of the two 1986 singles ‘Human’ or ‘I Need Your Loving’ had done.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Virgin Records

http://jocallis.com


GRAFTON PRIMARY Relativity – Martin Rushent remix (2008)

Australian electro-noir duo GRAFTON PRIMARY balanced in the divide between art and science on their debut single ‘Relativity’. Benjamin and Joshua Garden utilised sharp synthpop hooks and solid basslines in a classic Synth Britannia vein not dissimilar to THE HUMAN LEAGUE, which naturally made the Garden brothers perfect for a remix by Martin Rushent.

Available on GRAFTON PRIMARY single ‘Relativity’ via Resolution Music ‎

https://www.facebook.com/graftonprimarymusic/


THE PIPETTES Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen (2010)

From Rushent’s final album production, ‘Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen’ was a celestial Latin flavoured pop tune by the MkII variant of THE PIPETTES, fronted by sisters Gwenno and Ani Saunders. The partnership was to prove inspirational with Gwenno’s next solo long player ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ being one of the best albums of 2014, while Ani recently tweeted a photo of project notes from recording with Rushent as she prepared to record her first solo album.

Available on THE PIPETTES album ‘Earth Vs The Pipettes’ via Fortuna Pop

https://www.facebook.com/thepipettes/


In memory of Martin Rushent 1948-2011

The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Rusty Egan, Clive Pierce, Ani Saunders and Jo Callis

A Facebook tribute group to Martin Rushent run by his son Tim can be viewed at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/216490505038835/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th February 2018

MIDGE URE, THE CHRISTIANS + ALTERED IMAGES Live at Alban Arena

The Roman town of Verulamium, now the city of St Albans, was the location for the final night of a very successful 30 date UK tour featuring MIDGE URE, THE CHRISTIANS and ALTERED IMAGES.

Between them, THE CHRISTIANS and ALTERED IMAGES had 7 Top 20 hit singles, while MIDGE URE’s various career exploits with VISAGE, ULTRAVOX and BAND AID have been well documented.

ALTERED IMAGES singer Clare Grogan additionally has her place in pop history as the inspiration behind SPANDAU BALLET’s ‘True’, courtesy of her brief unrequited relationship with the band’s songwriter Gary Kemp.

In 2017, ALTERED IMAGES consists only of Clare Grogan from the original line-up and with a tight professional backing band, the pixie of pop was all set to see out the end of her first tour for over 30 years with a bang… this almost literally happened when she stumbled while walking off the drum rising in her heels during the marvellous opening number ‘I Could Be Happy’.

Modern technology allowed for the bubbling sequences of ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’ to be reproduced faithfully as Grogan set out, in her own words, to play “the embarrassing mum”, swearing with aplomb in a manner that would make Alison Moyet proud!

Indeed, when she introduced the song ‘Don’t Give Up Girl’ which was recorded for the TV show ‘Skins’, she gleefully announced it was written because “Being an adult is sometimes sh*t!”

A touching dedication was made to the late Martin Rushent on ‘See Those Eyes’ which Grogan said was his favourite production, while there were surprises too with the Siouxsie-lite but now very poignant ‘Dead Pop Stars’.

But the highlight was ‘Change Of Heart’, the great lost ALTERED IMAGES single with its great candy floss organ riff, while naturally to finish what was a very fun performance, Grogan got the audience up on their feet for ‘Happy Birthday’. Her daughter Elle joined backing singer Poppy Lironi on stage to keep a watchful eye on her mother who was enthusiastically jumping around the stage like she had never been away.

Using the essentially the same backing band, THE CHRISTIANS offered 40 minutes of thoughtful Merseyside soul with a couple of their noted covers thrown in. Originally comprising of the Christian brothers Garry, Russell and the sadly departed Roger with musician Henry Christian Priestman, only Garry Christian remains in today’s line-up of THE CHRISTIANS, but he was ably supported by guitarists Joey Ankrah and Neil Griffiths on the distinctive harmonies that characterised their earnest politically-tinged songs.

Beginning with ‘Forgotten Town’, a song that 30 years on still sadly reflects the social climate of the UK, Christian exuded some dry Scouse humour on the leafy St Albans audience.

He dedicated ‘Greenbank Drive’ to the city after seeing a road sign with the same name during the day, although he pointed out it was about the Liverpool one; the crowd didn’t seem to mind as they joined in an extended singalong.

Meanwhile ‘Ideal World’ looked back at a time when Apartheid and The Berlin Wall were still in place, showing that the world has actually made SOME progress since 1987 and there is cause for optimism, before a cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘The Bottle’ added a classic soulful groove to proceedings while passing social commentary on the issue of alcoholism.

‘Hooverville’ and ‘Born Again’ were reminders of the gritty pop that secured a UK No2 for THE CHRISTIANS’ debut eponymous album.

But to conclude the set, there came a spirited cover of The Isley Brothers’ ‘Harvest For The World’ which was the band’s biggest UK hit single back in 1988 in aid of a number of charities including British Red Cross, Christian Aid and Save The Children.

After his acoustic solo jaunts of the last few years, it was a joy to witness MIDGE URE present his ‘Band Electronica’ to journey through the key milestones of his glorious musical career. Aided by Cole Stacey on bass + synths, Joseph O’Keefe on synths, piano + violin and Russell Field on electronic drums, Ure sprung a surprise at the start with an instrumental rendition of ‘Yellow Pearl’, the track to composed with Phil Lynott which was the theme tune to Top Of The Pops’ between 1981-1985.

Seguing straight into ‘Passing Strangers’, it signalled Ure’s intention to fill the gap that has opened up since ULTRAVOX last played live opening for SIMPLE MINDS in late 2013.

Indeed, other than his No1 single  ‘If I Was’ and a cover of Tom Rush’s ‘No Regrets’, it was stomping ULTRAVOX numbers like ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ and ‘Sleepwalk’ that dominated the set; “I know what you want…” he quipped.

However, an unexpected full-blown synthesized rendition of ‘Fade To Grey’, which Ure co-wrote and recorded as part of VISAGE, got the cautious crowd up standing with the first really big roar of the evening.

ULTRAVOX fans can be a rather understated lot, as proven by entire front rows remaining firmly seated during their comeback concerts between 2009 to 2012, but Ure’s gentle persuasion and jokes about “the dance police” finally broke the dry ice.

As well as the hits like ‘All Stood Still’, ‘The Voice’ and the inevitable ‘Vienna’ which had an unusual middle set placing, Ure also dusted off the blistering ‘A Friend I Call Desire’ from the ‘Lament’ album, much to the delight of the ULTRAVOX diehards.

But while Ure’s voice and guitar, Stacey’s backing vocals and O’Keefe’s keys came over loud and clear, Field’s rhythmic backbone lacked power and was far too low in the mix… yes, you read that right, The Electricity Club is complaining that the live drums weren’t loud enough!!!

Despite this, the band played masterfully; a heart-rendering ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ was a sad reminder that the Doomsday Clock has reared its head again as it moves closer to midnight, thanks to the powers that be squaring up in their playground of the 38th Parallel.

A spirited version of ‘Hymn’ stole the show with O’Keefe’s recreation of its ARP Odyssey solo particularly enjoyable.

O’Keefe’s synthtastic approximation of the OSCar on ‘Love’s Great Adventure’ controlled by his Roland A-88 was another worthy moment to end a fabulously entertaining evening.

Ure’s ‘Band Electronica’ format was a worthy substitute for the absence of ULTRAVOX, although it did recall the solo Andy McCluskey version of OMD that toured between 1991 to 1993 when key band members were noticeable by their absence.

But that could be said about the other two acts on tonight’s bill and their performances were not made any less valid by their absent friends. At the end of the day, it is the songs that count and as Ure gleefully sang on ‘Love’s Great Adventure’, “I stood the test of time”.

So if these brilliant songs that shaped a generation can STILL be performed by their original vocalists, then why not roll on and keep it coming. Indeed, everyone could be happy 😉


MIDGE URE will be the special guest of THE HUMAN LEAGUE on the following 2018 UK dates:

Southend Cliffs Pavilion (21st November), Brighton Centre (23rd November), Manchester Arena (24th November), Glasgow SEC Armadillo (25th November), New Castle City Hall (27th November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (28th November), Bournemouth BIC Winter Hall (30th November), Birmingham Arena (1st December), Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (2nd December), Leicester De Montfort Hall ( 4th December), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (5th December), Sheffield Fly DSA Arena (7th December), London Hammersmith Apollo (8th December)

http://www.midgeure.co.uk

https://twitter.com/midgeure1

http://www.thechristianslive.co.uk

https://twitter.com/thechristians

https://www.facebook.com/ClareGrogansAlteredImages/

https://twitter.com/claregrogan2


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
22nd November 2017

Lost Albums: ONE DOVE Morning Dove White

ONE DOVE were a moody Glaswegian trio comprised of Ian Carmichael, Jim McKinven and Dot Allison. Their only album ‘Morning Dove White’ took its title from the Native American name of Elvis Presley’s grandmother.

McKinven was best known for his stint in ALTERED IMAGES during their ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Pinky Blue’ period. This project couldn’t have been more different, especially when compared with his former band mate Johnny McElhone who formed TEXAS with Sharleen Spiteri.

Producer Andrew Weatherall signed them to his Junior Boys Own label after hearing their independently released single ‘Fallen’ and became involved in the recording process, along with Gary Burns and Jagz Kooner from SABRES OF PARADISE who both later went on to form THE ALOOF.

Seasoned by the icy but angelic voice of Dot Allison, ‘Morning Dove White’ was something truly unique in the sphere of post-Acid House electronic dance music. Dot Allison’s resigned opening line on ‘Fallen’ of  “I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this…” is simply seductive. The accompanying groovy rhythm section on a slight off-beat makes it the most club flavoured track on here with the reggae-inflections of LEFTFIELD’s ‘Release The Pressure’ as its backdrop.

Although often referred to as a dance act, ONE DOVE’s sound was actually characterised by primarily electronic textures with heavy processing influenced by laid back Jamaican dub and Eno-esque ambience. This recalled the work of former PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED bassist Jah Wobble who incidentally guested on ‘Morning Dove White’ and later recorded an album with Brian Eno called ‘Spinner’.

The single versions of ‘Breakdown’ and ‘White Love’ reworked by Stephen Hague are actually quite brilliant, accessible and are far less intimidating than the full-on dub attack of the lengthy album cuts. But even as radio mixes, they are hardly the glossy pop of SAINT ETIENNE.

London Records had taken over the Junior Boys Own label and wanted to make ONE DOVE’s music more radio friendly. The band may have been unhappy about the commercialisation of their sound and there is something to be said about fighting for your art, but what is the point if people can’t access your work through conventional media and grow into it, especially if it is relatively radical? In hindsight, London Records were being well intentioned, but this led to a dispute which delayed the release ‘Morning Dove White’ for a full year until 1993.

A compromise was reached with ONE DOVE working with Stephen Hague in the studio during the remix sessions. ‘White Love’ is wonderfully dreamy with its subtle piano and gospel salvo predating MOBY’s ‘Play’ by several years. Their biggest hit ‘Breakdown’ has a surprising VAN MORRISON influence, taking its chorus from THEM’s ‘Here Comes The Night’. In both, Dot Allison’s sexily whispering vocals are the distinctive key.

But the album’s crowning glory is the Phil Spector in the 23rd Century mystique of the stupendous ‘Why Don’t You Take Me?’ featuring Wall Of Sound effects galore and reverbed steel drum samples, it is almost funereal but actually possesses an uplifting quality. Although there was a Stephen Hague assisted mix sans steel drums available on the single release, in this case it was Andrew Weatherall’s original vision that is won the day.

Of the supporting features on ‘Morning Dove White’, ‘There Goes The Cure’ is very ‘Twin Peaks’ in atmosphere, punctuated by Dot Allison’s chants of “he’s gone”. Constructed around some tinkling piano and deep ambient drones, its heart is suddenly invaded by Jah Wobble’s distinctive bass run before returning full circle with the aid of a dramatic percussive climax.

Both ‘Sirens’ and ‘My Friend’ recall Weatherall’s work on PRIMAL SCREAM’s ‘Screamadelica’ while ‘Transient Truth’ is a superb instrumental with an ‘Ipcress File’ meets KING TUBBY twist. The echoey drum machine and the various incessantly repeated spy film riffs provide a suitably hypnotic soundtrack.

With a promising debut album greeted by enormous praise and critical approval, a follow-up was eagerly anticipated.

A reworking of DOLLY PARTON’s ‘Jolene’ and the song ‘Skanga’ which were included as B-sides to’ Why Don’t You Take Me?’ gave an indication of the heavier dub reggae sound that was being pursued. There was even rumours of a cover version of SIMON DUPREE & THE BIG SOUND’s ‘Kites’, the concept of which had the potential to be amazing.

But there was no second album. It was recorded but never released. Frustrated and drained by business politics, ONE DOVE disbanded in 1996. Dot Allison went on to release a series of acclaimed solo albums including ‘Afterglow’ and ‘We Are Science’ as well as working with DEATH IN VEGAS and MASSIVE ATTACK.

‘Morning Dove White’, like THE ALOOF’s ‘Sinking’, is infinitely superior to the over rated trip-hop albums such as PORTISHEAD’s ‘Dummy’ or TRICKY’s ‘Maxinquaye’ which dominated the mellow coffee-table dance niche of the time. Some of the full on dub excursions have degrees of over-indulgence and may not be to everyone’s taste, but one of the beauties of modern digital formats is the ability to compile a version of the album to suit the mood.

It may not have been the journey that the band intended but this collection is a challenging and rewarding listen that deserves reappraisal.


‘Morning Dove White’ is still available on CD via London Records

www.onedove.net

www.dotallison.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd June 2012