Album review: THE QUESTIONNAIRES – Atlantic Ridge

THE QUESTIONNAIRES - Atlantic Ridge

Boom Chang Records [Release date 15.01.21]

It seems a bit disingenuous in the PR blurb to refer to Jane Wade and Steve Hall, aka The Questionnaires, as having been ‘around a bit’.  For most, me included, their formative bands – for Steve, the nine piece r&b outfit East Side Torpedoes, and Jane the all-woman 80′s band Jazawaki – likely won’t mean a great deal.

And while they originally paired up in the 80s, it was a short lived affiliation with both deciding to follow different careers – Steve in academia and Jane in the theatre. In 2002, they made a brief ‘debut’ releasing ‘Arctic Circles’ – an album of songs they demoed in the 80′s – an excellent set (still available via bandcamp) that marries elements of Steely Dan, The Carpenters and 80′s pop into the sort of timeless format I once hoped Culture Club’s Helen Terry might produce.

Atlantic Ridge – the Newcastle upon Tyne based duo’s ‘follow up’ – has been a long time coming, fuelled by Steve’s early retirement, and Jane’s acting career winding down.  A case of ‘now or never’, it remains rooted in that ‘classic’ song writing style that you could well imagine someone like Tina Turner using in her 80′s heyday, or, say it quietly – Dame Shirley Bassey – but with Arctic Circles’ jazzy brass flourishes supplanted with more contemporary folk / country / bluegrass dobro, violin, viola, and mandolin.

Sumptuous playing, Jane Wade’s perfect diction and wonderfully warm vocals combine to make both albums what I would describe as proper ‘adult’ orientated pop offerings.  Chuck in exemplary self-production and this is, indeed, ‘music for pleasure’.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


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