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Everything But the Girl — The Language of Life [Deluxe Edition] (2013)

 Everything But the Girl — The Language of Life [Deluxe Edition] (2013)

GBR Flag Everything But the Girl — The Language of Life [Deluxe Edition]

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♠   A quiet, jazzy folk-pop duo who later expanded their sound to include electronica, drum'n'bass, and trip-hop.
♠   Disc Two commences with two b-sides including a version of Tom Waits' "Downtown Train", plus five previously unreleased demos (including one previously unreleased song, "Will The Roof Fall In", demoed for the album but not recorded). Also featured are five previously unreleased live tracks and four previously unreleased outtake solos by saxophone legends Michael Brecker and Stan Getz, all taken from Ben Watt's own tape archive.
♠   The 32 page book features a candid note by Ben and Tracey along with the lyrics, as well as memorabilia, previously unseen photos and set lists from their own collection.
Location: Hampstead, North London, UK
Album release: February 20, 1990/November 11, 2013
Catalogue number: EDSK7048
Recorded: 1989, Schnee Studio, Sunset Sound, Ocean Way Recording, Los Angeles
Record Labels: Blanco Y Negro/Atlantic/2013 Edsel Remaster/Demon Music Group
01. Driving     4:00
02. Get Back Together     3:57
03. Meet Me In The Morning     3:50
04. Me And Bobby D     4:09
05. The Language Of Life     4:03
06. Take Me (Cecil Womack / Linda Womack)     4:08
07. Imagining America     4:59
08. Letting Love Go     4:45
09. My Baby Don’t Love Me     3:42
10. The Road     3:52
11. Driving [Masters At Work Racing Mix]     5:43
12. Driving [Underdog Vocal Remix]     3:16
13. Take Me [Clifton Mix]     5:06
14. Take Me [Clifton Mix Instrumental]     4:48
15. Take Me [Lee Hamblin Remix]     6:21
16. Take Me [Lee Hamblin Love Mix]     4:42
01. Downtown Train
02. Driving [acoustic]
03. Imagining America [home demo]
04. Driving [home demo]
05. The Road [New York live demo]
06. Meet Me In The Morning [New York live demo]
07. Will The Roof Fall In? [home demo]
08. Meet Me In The Morning [live]
09. The Road [live]
10. Driving [live]
11. Me And Bobby D [live]
12. Imagining America [live]
13. The Language of Life [live]
14. Letting Love Go [Michael Brecker final solo and alternatives]
15. Driving [Michael Brecker final Main solo and alternatives, rough mixes]
16. Driving [Michael Brecker final Outro solo and alternative, rough mixes]
17. The Road [Stan Getz alternate whole take, rough mixes]
Songs written by:
Ben Watt: 1, 2, 7-10
Tracey Thorn / Ben Watt: 3-5
Album Moods: Literate Refined Restrained Romantic Sophisticated Stylish Autumnal Brooding Intimate Plaintive Reflective Somber Wistful
Themes: Affection/Fondness Comfort In Love Introspection Reflection
♠   Michael Brecker  Sax (Tenor)
♠   Lenny Castro  Percussion
♠   Vinnie Colaiuta  Drums
♠   Russell Ferrante  Piano
♠   Stan Getz  Sax (Tenor)
♠   Omar Hakim  Drums
♠   Jerry Hey  Flugelhorn
♠   Michael Landau  Guitar (Electric)
♠   Tommy LiPuma  Producer
♠   John Patitucci  Guitar (Bass)
♠   Joe Sample  Piano
♠   Tracey Thorn  Composer, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
♠   Ben Watt  Composer, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Piano, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
♠   Kirk Whalum  Sax (Tenor)
♠   Larry Williams  Piano, Synthesizer
♠   Cecil Womack  Composer
♠   Linda Womack  Composer
♠   Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt were tykes in 1964, when Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto set the world swaying with "The Girl From Ipanema." By 1984, the two Brits, barely out of their teens, had released their first album as Everything but the Girl, fashioning heartfelt and troubled — if somewhat naive — love songs inspired by Getz's bossa nova and other breezy Sixties pop. Now Thorn and Watt have made their first grown-up album — with Getz himself lending a hand on an exquisitely crafted work of intelligent jazz-inflected pop.
♠   EBTG may have pointed the way for Sade, Basia and Swing Out Sister, but the group's early albums were too quirky to attract more than a cult following in America. ♠   The Language of Life may alter that. With the help of veteran producer Tommy Li-Puma, Thorn and Watt have maintained the emotional directness of their songs while shaping a more sophisticated musical package. The production may initially put off some of the duo's longtime fans, but beneath the glittering surface lies some of their strongest songwriting yet.
♠   Thorn emerges as a singer to be reckoned with; her assured vocals soar over the orchestrations, then coast down for a breathy intimacy. Behind her stands a stylish crew of contempo jazzers, from drummer Omar Hakim to saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Michael Brecker, all smooth as rayon. When guitarist Michael Landau tosses off a Bensonish guitar hook on the irresistible "Get Back Together" as Watt and Thorn scat, it sounds like a hit — and it sounds like Watt and Thorn are finally realizing the kind of pop they've toyed with since their debut.
♠   If Thorn seems too glib and detached at times and if the album's overall sound seems too slick, there's plenty of heart-to-heart communication to make up for it, from the bittersweet love song "Meet Me in the Morning" to the album's closing track, "The Road," in which Getz's tender sax winds around a yearning Watt vocal. With the blessing of the dean of jazz pop, Watt and Thorn talk straight from the soul on The Language of Life.
♠   By the release of the latter, their fifth album, in early 1990, Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn found themselves at some distance from the scratchy leftfield jazz inflections of essential 1984 debut EDEN.
♠   The NME initially positioned the duo alongside Billy Bragg and the Redskins as politically charged ‘New Realists’ and, in her great autobiography BEDSIT DISCO QUEEN (published earlier this year; reviewed here), Thorn beautifully describes their approach of the time as “sounding like Astrud Gilberto but coming on like Gang Of Four”.
♠   Having drifted out to what appeared to be the middle of the road by the time of their well-intentioned 1989 cover of Rod Stewart hit I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT, Watt and Thorn felt ”rejected, misunderstood and blameless” at becoming considered “a bit naff” on home shores. Bruised, and with a need to feel “forgiven”, they decamped to America to buy some of what producer Tommy LiPuma and his top team of arrangers and musicians were selling.
♠   Giving themselves up to being bit parts in the making of their own album (Thorn sang and learnt to play Super Mario Bros), the result of several Stateside weeks was an expensively produced “fully realised, immaculately performed modern American soul-pop” record.
♠   But THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE’s acute glossiness did not serve its handful of the duo’s finest songs particularly well at the time — and certainly not now; a fact highlighted on this deluxe edition by the sparse demo of THE ROAD. It’s difficult not to wonder what might have been as, solo at the piano, Watt is absolutely on message in a plaintive performance reminiscent of predecessor IDLEWILD’s secular hymn THE NIGHT I HEARD CARUSO SING. The presence of tender moments from legendary saxophonist Stan Getz on the album version (and alternate take) lends THE ROAD a degree of hip gravitas, but a late-1980s fizz bubbling around the essentials plays as vacuous and of-its-day distracting. DRIVING (a Top 40 hit six years later, in superior remixed form), the scathing ME AND BOBBY D — an iron fist in a velvet glove — and an economical b-side cover of Tom Waits’ DOWNTOWN TRAIN are the pick.
♠   Even at forgiving distance THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE remains Everything But The Girl’s least satisfying record, sitting alongside IDLEWILD as something of a mid-season slump. WORLD
♠   Released in 1991, WORLDWIDE was, according to Thorn, recorded in “fatalistic mood” and then all but ignored by the music press. Thorn again: “It really isn’t dreadful — just not good enough”. Here, it’s coupled with 1992′s ACOUSTIC EP, and actually finds Watt and Thorn a little way down the road to recovery.
♠   It’s interesting to read the duo’s new sleeve notes in which they describe it as a “diffident” and “overly meditative” album. It’s certainly cautious in places, but playing to traditional strengths is its strength. Sprightly single TWIN CITES seems a logical ‘perfect pop’ extension of the aesthetic which first brought them note.
♠   1992′s ACOUSTIC EP — versions of Cyndi Lauper’s TIME AFTER TIME, Bruce Springsteen’s TOUGHER THAN THE REST, Elvis Costello’s ALISON and LOVE IS STRANGE by The Everly Brothers — is twee but soulful, and locates new adult resonance in each song. The plethora of extra tracks includes remixes of TWIN CITIES, live recordings of The Smiths’ BACK TO THE OLD HOUSE and Sonic Youth’s KOTTON KROWN, two versions of I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS LOOKING FOR LOVE and a cover of Simon And Garfunkel’s THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK, previously only available on the HOME MOVIES compilation. As they say in their sleeve notes, by the time of WORLDWIDE Watt and Thorn “have found friends again”.
♠   Everything But The Girl were revitalised for 1994′s AMPLIFIED HEART, perhaps the freshest-sounding record since EDEN. Watt had recovered from a rare disease — the life-threatening Churg-Strauss syndrome, diagnosed in 1992 — and associated illnesses, and the experience is movingly documented in his autobiographical PATIENT, Thorn’s BEDSIT DISCO QUEEN and the song WE WALK THE SAME LINE. Motivation for the artistic rebirth of AMPLIFIED HEART was provided by seismic personal events — but seismic artistic events were not too far ahead, despite the duo being dropped from their label shortly after the album’s release.
♠   Single ROLLERCOASTER is classic acoustic pop comedown; Richard Thompson features on neat b-side STRAIGHT BACK TO YOU; string arrangements on I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING and TWO STAR are by Harry Robinson (who had scored for Nick Drake and Sandy Denny); and the deluxe edition also highlights an utterly stripped live take on Jackson Browne’s wistful THESE DAYS — perhaps one of Watts’ most memorable performances in light of the preceding few years’ troubles.
♠   Time spent working with Massive Attack and befriending Fairport Convention played their part, but it was Todd Terry’s ice-cool club mix of non-hit single MISSING which finally turned Everything But The Girl’s fortunes around.
♠   The melancholy lonely city groove became an underground sensation, slowly bubbling up from dancefloors in Europe and on America’s East Coast to global mainstream radio and the top of several charts. It was reissued with an abundance of different dance mixes, stayed in the UK’s Top 10 for around three months, and sold over three million.
♠   On hearing the original album version, some may be surprised to note that Terry’s remix is not radically different. Alongside a live version from the 1995 tour, which features bassist Danny Thompson, a handful of other dancefloor reworkings are included on the deluxe edition — pointing the way, perhaps, to 1996′s electronica-oriented WALKING WOUNDED.
♠   Despite the imposing shadow cast across this second wave of deluxe edition reissues by the success of MISSING, the story of Everything But The Girl’s artistic trajectory between 1990 and 1995 is not that of two underachieving albums and one accidental hit alone.
♠   It’s also a quietly triumphant story of realigned perspective and regained confidence. (http://themouthmagazine.wordpress.com/)
Review by William Ruhlmann; Score: **
♠   It may have been the logical extension of Everything But the Girl's ersatz cool jazz approach to finally go all the way by hiring veteran producer Tommy LiPuma and a studio full of fusion stars like Joe Sample (the Crusaders), Russell Ferrante (the Yellowjackets), Michael Brecker, and, finally, Stan Getz, whose early-'60s albums of Brazilian jazz are a main touchstone for the group. With such firepower, The Language of Life, at least musically, may be the album that Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn have been trying to make from the beginning. But it falls down in its songwriting, largely because of the near-disappearance of Thorn and her edgy lyrics; Watt takes over for a series of so-so love songs. And the bottom of the barrel is hit with a cover of Womack & Womack's "Take Me," intended as an erotic come-on and sounding more like a lullaby.
Birth name: Tracey Anne Thorn
Born: 26 September 1962, Brookman's Park, Herts, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom
♠   Formed in 1982 by Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt (b. Barnes, London 06.12.62). ♠   Both had already had early acclaimed starts in their teens on the UK post-punk independent scene — Tracey with her indie minimal girl group, the Marine Girls (1980-1983, later name-checked as one of Kurt Cobain's favourite bands); Ben with more experimental solo folk-jazz recordings featuring alt-folk icon, Robert Wyatt (1981-1983). All the recordings had been released by London independent, Cherry Red, during it's A&R heyday under Mike Alway (1980-1983). The pair met by coincidence at Hull University in the autumn of 1981.
♠   Merging their respective early non-rock influences (Tracey: Buzzcocks, Billie Holiday, torch songs, disco; Ben: John Martyn, Brian Eno, Bill Evans) their first release was a stark acoustic cover of Cole Porter's 'Night and Day' (1982) on Cherry Red. ♠   Originally intended as a last-minute B-side to two originals, it unintentionally threw the pair into the burgeoning London jazz-pop scene.
♠   Returning to work in the relative isolation of Hull, each then released acclaimed minimalistic solo albums that topped the UK Indie Charts — Tracey's 'A Distant Shore' (1982, recorded in a friend's garden shed, incl. cover of Lou Reed's 'Femme Fatale').
♠   Their first official album — recorded in local engineer, Pat Bermingham's garden shed — was 'Beach Party' (1980) released on the TV Personalities’ Dan Treacy’s independent Wham! label before being picked up by London independent, Cherry Red Records for re-release the same year.
♠   In October 1981 Tracey started and English Literature academic course at the University Of Hull. During a holiday afternoon in 1982 back down in Pat Bermingham's shed she recorded the eight songs that were to make up her first solo mini-album 'A Distant Shore' released on Cherry Red in August 1982. It's raw emotion and direct simplicity, allied to Tracey's unique voice, drew unanimous plaudits from the rock press and the album was soon topping the UK Independent Album Chart. The album included the single 'Plain Sailing'.
Personal life:
♠   The youngest of three children, Thorn was born in Brookmans Park, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. She grew up in Hatfield and studied English at the University of Hull, where she graduated in 1984 with First Class Honours. She later took an MA degree at Birkbeck College, University of London.
♠   After 28 years as a couple, Thorn and her partner Ben Watt married in 2009 at Chelsea Register Office. They live in Hampstead, North London. The couple have twin daughters Alfie and Jean, born in 1998, and a son Blake born in 2001.
♠   Thorn released her autobiography, Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star, early in 2013.
Studio albums:
♠   1982 — A Distant Shore (September 1982, Cherry Red)
♠   2007 — Out of the Woods (5 March 2007, Virgin/Astralwerks)
#38 (UK)/#44 (SWE)/#172 (US)
♠   2010 — Love and Its Opposite (17 May 2010, Strange Feeling/Merge)
#51 (UK)/#16 (GRE)/# 22 (SWE)/# 144 (US)
♠   2012 — Tinsel and Lights (29 October, Strange Feeling)
# 94 (UK)
♠   2010 — Opposites EP (contains experimental remixes of tracks from Love and Its Opposite)
♠   2011 — You Are A Lover EP (10" green vinyl released for Record Store Day)
♠   2011 — Night Time EP
♠   2011 — Extended Plays 2010–2011
Website: http://www.traceythorn.com/
Birth name: Benjamin Brian Thomas Watt
Born: 6 December 1962
Origin: Barnes, London
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, synthesizer, piano, organ, turntable, programming
Early life:
   Watt was born in Barnes, London, the son of British jazz musician Tommy Watt, and has four half brothers and sisters. He is the youngest of the family.
Strange Feeling Records (2007-2013):
   Building upon the foundation of Buzzin' Fly, Watt launched Strange Feeling Records in 2007 as a sister label that would release alternative/indie music. The critically acclaimed Copenhagen band Figurines and the Hungarian trio The Unbending Trees were early signings of Strange Feeling. In 2010 the label globally released and distributed the third solo album Love and Its Opposite by Watt's wife Tracey Thorn on 17 May 2010 — the album was the label's fifth release.
   As part of the official partial closure of Buzzin' Fly, Watt announced that Strange Feeling will also cease to work with new artists and will remain open for the sole purpose of releasing Thorn's solo material. Watt explained his perception of the record label industry and independent music in 2013 following the official announcement for both labels:
   It is cheap to produce music and cheap to distribute it. Anyone can be an artist or have a label. We are wading chest-high through a deluge of music. Of course this is a good thing in some ways. But in other ways it creates huge problems for small labels trying to stay afloat. The competition is fierce. And a lot of the money is in a vast delta of micro-payments from streams these days. Accounting accurately is the single biggest challenge to small labels. In the end, I think the current climate in the dance world suits big aggregator labels who can cope with putting out compilations and paying accountants, and also at the other end the tiny hobbyist labels who handstamp three-hundred pieces of vinyl, but still have day jobs. It is the labels in the middle that have been squeezed the most.
   Watt's autobiographical book Patient (Penguin, 1996) describes Churg-Strauss syndrome, a rare life-threatening auto-immune disease that he was diagnosed with.    Watt's website states that the book was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Sunday Times Book Of The Year and Village Voice Literary Supplement Favorite Book of the Year, and was also a finalist for the Esquire-Waterstones Best Non-Fiction Award in the UK.
   In an April 2013 interview, Watt revealed he was working on a book looking at the history of his own family against the broader backdrop of Britain. Watt explained that his father was a left-wing Glaswegian jazz musician, while his mother was a RADA-trained Shakespearian actress and the daughter of a Methodist parson — Watt described the concept of the book:
   The book is my portrait of their [Watt's parents] lives and marriage, from my own wide-eyed London childhood, through years as an adult with children and a career of my own, to that inevitable point when we must assume responsibility for our own parents in their old age. It's also about the post-war years, ambition and stardom, family roots and secrets, the death of British Big Band jazz, depression and drink, life in clubs and in care homes — and about who we are, where we come from, and how we love and live with each other for a long time.
   This memoir, Romany and Tom, is published by Bloomsbury in February 2014.
Personal life:
   Watt lives with his spouse and creative partner Thorn in Hampstead, North London, UK. They met at Hull University in 1981 and after 28 years as a couple, they married in 2009 at the Chelsea Registry Office. Their twin daughters Jean and Alfie were born in 1998, and their son Blake was born in 2001.
   North Marine Drive (1983, Cherry Red)
Singles and EPs:
   "Cant" (June 1981, Cherry Red)
   "Summer Into Winter" EP with Robert Wyatt (March 1982, Cherry Red)
   "Some Things Don't Matter" (February 1983, Cherry Red)
   "Lone Cat" (April 2003, Buzzin' Fly)
   "A Stronger Man" with Sananda Maitreya (January 2004, Buzzin' Fly)
   "Outspoken Part 1" feat. "Pop a Cap in Yo' Ass" with Estelle and "Attack, Attack,    "Attack" with Baby Blak (January 2005, Buzzin' Fly)
   "Buzzin' Fly Vol 2" EP feat. "Le Boom" by Justin Martin, remixes of "Lone Cat (Holding On)" by Justin Martin and "Pop a Cap in Yo Ass" by Ben Watt with Estelle (April 2005, Buzzin' Fly)
   "We Are Silver" EP includes "Old Soul" and "Lone Cat" remix (April 2007, Buzzin' Fly)
   "Just a Blip" features on Buzzin' Fly Vol 4 Sampler EP, (June 2007, Buzzin' Fly)
   "Guinea Pig" (October 2008, Buzzin' Fly)
Website: http://www.ebtg.com/

Everything But the Girl — The Language of Life [Deluxe Edition] (2013)