Twenty years on, can Love & Money still cut it? Their re-grouping at the start of 2011 for a couple of Scottish gigs and tentative UK dates last autumn suggested a resounding ‘yes’.
To hear that the band have been working on a new album for around twelve months is also good news but how would the new recorded work match up to previous offerings? Is this just another James Grant solo album with cranked up guitar?
Any worries are mainly set aside in the opening salvo of the title track replete with dramatic string orchestration and with Monica Queen’s bv’s (a feature throughout) – a real ensemble piece – and ‘Goodbye Phoebus’. Yes, Grant will always be a major part of the band and is responsible for much of the writing but this is truly a band sound.
For clues about where we are in terms of history ’The Devil’s Debt’ takes a cue from Grant’s last solo album, the upbeat ‘Strange Flowers’, and whilst it reworks songs written for a fourth L& M album in the 1990s the overall impression is of a no-compromise L&M refresh for the 2000s.
What the band haven’t done – to their credit – is purposefully return to earlier glories and re-work an album in the spirit of, say , ‘Strange Kind Of Love’, their biggest commercial success. Of course fans will know that a lot of good stuff came out after that, not least the small-label parting shot ‘Little Death’.
Are there any killer tracks in the spirit of ‘Strange Kind Of Love’ or ‘Walk The Last Mile’? Well, the quality quotient (and production values) is high throughout but only ‘I Never Touched Her’ comes close to what you might term Classic L&M. The gospel-tinged vibe on the later albums is also present.
I’m sure James Grant told me they would be including ‘Without Her’, a non-album track from their swansong period (originally included on a 1994 single). It’s a superb song but it ain’t here (although we understand there are a couple of bonus tracks available…so maybe it will surface).
If anything, ‘The Devil’s Debt’ is quite ‘up’ and joyous sounding. Grant seems to have left the dark and broody behind, on his solo albums. Whilst that may be a good or bad thing depending on your taste and preference, it certainly makes this album more accessible for the general listener.
The band’s UK dates last year were immaculate and it is only the dictates of the Economy and musical fashion that will stymie this fully deserved, and welcome, revival.
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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