Wishing Tree Records [Release date 22.03.19]
Kevin Armstrong was a something of a ‘go to’ guitarist in the 1980′s working with Bowie, Iggy Pop, Morrissey, Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby and many more.
A name that will have gone under most radars, he played in Bowie’s Live Aid band and on the single Dancing In The Street (1985), on the first Tin Machine album (1989), collaborated with him on the Absolute Beginners soundtrack (1986), and on Outside (1995).
He also played on Thomas Dolby’s first two albums, Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen (1985), Iggy Pop’s Blah-Blah-Blah (1986), and Morrissey’s sophomore solo album Bona Drag (1990).
But it’s not just his six string talents that are sought by an even wider range of stars from Roy Orbison to Eno, Grace Jones to Paul McCartney, and from Sandie Shaw to Alien Sex Fiend, with his writing talents extending to co-writing.
And his own versions of several of those collaborations appear here – the title track of Bowie’s Outside album, the Tin Machine song ‘Run’, and two original songs Morrissey turned into ‘He Knows I’d Love To See Him’ and ‘Oh Phony’.
With the skull emblazoned album sleeve, I wasn’t sure what to expect perhaps something angular, and aggressive? But no, it’s actually a highly melodic collection that probably sits somewhere between Prefab Sprout and Be Bop Deluxe. There’s some excellent guitar work throughout, and Armstrong’s wistful vocals are ideally suited to the material. And as for the ‘covers’, they take on completely different forms in his hands, which is equally refreshing.
A collection that merits and rewards repeated listening. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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Power Plays w/c 14 June 2021 (Mon-Fri)
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