Album review: THOMAS LANG – Scallywag Jaz (2 disc expanded edition)

THOMAS LANG - Scallywag Jaz

SFE/Cherry Red [Release date 10.11.17]

As we learn from the informative liner notes Tom T. Jones made his first demos in a studio in Birkenhead (Lily Savage’s spiritual home) before returning to his day job as a British Rail joiner.  Several years later, Thomas Lang was being feted by his label Sony as a masculine answer to the sophisticated soul jazz/chart sensation that was Sade.

Jones/Lang was part of a burgeoning and more mainstream Merseyside-based music in the late-1980s which included the likes of The Lotus Eaters, It’s Immaterial, Black and River City People.   Now, thirty years since the release of the debut album ‘Scallywag Jaz’ we get a comprehensive two-CD set which includes a bonus disc of rare and unreleased material.  If you like fellow eighties journeymen ABC, Spandau Ballet and Johnny Hates Jazz – all bands with soul at their core – you will find this album hits the button.

The original album ‘Scallywag Jaz’ (titled ‘Fingers & Thumbs’ in the States) highlighted Thomas Lang’s excellent jazz-tinged vocals and his songwriting partnership with keyboards wizard David A. Hughes.  The album was produced by Pete Smith hotfooting it from his work on Sting’s debut album.

On disc one, the bonus tracks have been included on a previous CD reissue but fans will welcome the inclusion of several ‘B’ sides one of which was included on a limited cassette version of the standout track and minor hit ‘The Happy Man’.

Disc two on the other hand widens the net and includes pieces from Lang’s own archive as well as more recent live recordings from Liverpool (where he is now a director of the venerable Philharmonic Hall) and Japan where he achieved some success in the early 1990s.  A couple of the Liverpool tracks, recorded in 2011, appeared on the 2014 release ‘Torch’.

Hopefully Cherry Red will do their usual comprehensive job and reissue Lang’s subsequent albums.  This well annotated anniversary reissue shows the way to a wider appreciation of his talents and chimes with a renewed interest in all things eighties.   *****

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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MILES NIELSEN AND THE RUSTED HEARTS Hands Up (indie)
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