Fisher, Matthew: Matthew Fisher/Strange Days
Best known for his two stints in Procol Harum, and for the intro to that's band's defining moment, "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", keyboard player and singer Matthew Fisher also released a succession of solo albums, with the first arriving in 1973 and the most recent in 1990. Slap bang in the middle came a 1980 self titled effort and just a year later, Strange Days, the pair brought together here for reappraisal on one disc by those nice people at Angel Air.
Anyone expecting the gentle prog of Fisher's ex-band will initially, most likely, be a little confused by the grown up pop presented on the earlier of these two releases, a slick smooth sound revealed that wouldn't be out of place in a laid back Eagles setting, or even at the less cheerful end of Paul McCartney's solo output. It's classy stuff that reminds just how strong Fisher's often overlooked vocals are and the overall standard remains high throughout. Opener "Can't You Feel My Love" may be an overly unassuming introduction, but it is a still a cleverly paced and well constructed piece that happily sits on a reserved groove. Things pick up with "Give It A Try"; a more insistent and forceful slice of organ induced pop that, while of its time, possesses more than enough of a classy 70s sheen to have more depth and believability. It also sets the tone for the rest of the album, the strong mix of accessibility and intricately structured melodies carrying "Only A Game" and "Running From Your Love" deep into the memory. In truth, even though the likes of "Why'd I Have To Fall In Love With You" impress with their crafted melodies and heartfelt delivery (and "A Whiter…" like organ surge), if there's a criticism it's that things can sit just a little too often in the realms of sorrow and introspection. However that doesn't stop this whole album being a resounding success from start to finish.
The biggest shock that arrives when track eleven on this disc kicks in – track one of the Strange Days album – is the short period of time between it and its predecessor. From the smooth, yet crafted 70s pop and rock of the previous album, the leap into austere 80s inspired electro shimmers of "Something I Should Know" suggest the passing of decades, rather than mere months. Having written all of his self titled album alone, this time Fisher teamed up with former Zombie Chris White on all but two of this album's ten cuts and the difference really is quite stark. Having already stated that the sound of the earlier album is 'of its time', what's more telling here is that while the earlier of these two records sounds like it was from the 70s, it doesn't sound dated in the way that this 1981 effort now does. Fisher's vocals are still lamenting and beautiful, while the melodies and hooks are still in place, but as "Without You" looks to work its magic, the overwrought synth layers somehow prove that more is decidedly less on this occasion; especially when things are stripped back to fleetingly reveal the song's inner beauty.
To be fair, not everything is blighted in the same way, "Living In A Dream" thriving on simple pop hooks and trilling saxophone, while "Desperate Measures" repeats the process in a rockier and harder hitting setting. However the unintentional tweeness of "Can't Stop Loving You Now" just can't capture the same range of emotion as similarly structured pieces did on the album released just the year before. That said, Strange Days is more a mixed bag than a failure and there's more than enough to keep you sticking with it. However there's no doubt that it's the first ten tracks on this disc from the Matthew Fisher album that will continue to draw you back for more.
1. Can't You Feel My Love
2. Give It A Try
3. Back In Your Arms Again
4. Only A Game
5. Why'd I Have To Fall In Love With You?
6. Looking For Shelter
8. Miss Suzie
9. Just How Blind
10. Running From Your Love
11. Something I Should Have Known
12. Without You
13. Living In A Dream
14. Why Can't You Lie To Me?
15. Only Yourself To Blame
16. Desperate Measures
17. Can't Stop Loving You Now
18. She Makes Me Feel
19. Take Me For A Ride
20. Strange Days
Added: February 24th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Matthew Fisher/Strange Days @ AngelAir
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