Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate is the 1988 First Of A Million Kisses album from Fairground Attraction, but would this album be more of a case of marry or avoid? Read on…
This 14 track album opens with third single A Smile In A Whisper. A gentle acoustic guitar strums you in before Eddi Reader’s soft vocals begin. She’s joined by some light percussion. This feels almost like a lullaby into the album. The track stalled in the charts, signalling the start of their commercial decline – reaching #75 in the UK.
Next up is their big breakthrough hit Perfect, a regular fixture on 80s albums. The skiffle sound to this song set it aside from most of everything else in the charts, quite rightly taking it to #1. The double bass, acoustic and electric guitars are wonderful, and Eddi’s rich vocals throughout really makes this a great song to listen to – sounding as fresh now as it did then. Brilliant.
Moon On The Rain follows, and we’re back to a slower pace that is laden with more acoustic guitars and vocals. This track sounds really quite folky with lots of delicate, intricate guitar work, and accordion.
Second single Find My Love is up next, and this song, whilst continuing a similar musical sound as the previous track, it increases the tempo and sounds more up-beat and perhaps a little cajun in style in the process. Eddi’s vocals sound almost playful here, and she delivers the track with great ease, and gets to show off her vocal range too. A wonderfully warm summertime sounding track. This gave the group their second and final (to date) top 10 hit, reaching #7 in the UK.
Up next is Fairground Attraction, which has some great fairground sounds and merry-go-round melody. The melody and lyrics nearer the start remind me a lot of My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music – ‘children with candy floss, and prizes of goldfish. Young men kill tin ducks, in sharp shooter poses..’. The track perfectly captures the spirit of a fairground, although it doesn’t manage to build up very far, instead falling a little short at 2m 17s and sounding more like an introduction. Perhaps this should have been longer, or the first track?
This is followed by a jazzy slow number The Wind Knows My Name, which has some wonderful brushed snare drums and double bass. Eddi’s sad vocals sit perfectly on this downtempo track, and even though her vocals finish well before the end of the track, it does let you listen to the rest of the group.
Fourth and final single Clare is up next. This time, it’s an up-tempo jazz/skiffle-styled track. Eddi really puts in a great vocal performance here, but sadly the single stalled at #49 in the UK singles chart. However, I reckon that this song could easily do well now. Again, the percussion is perfect, and the woodwind section really shines here alongside Eddi. Definitely worth a listen.
Comedy Waltz follows, and this song gently plods along, although does give Eddi more opportunities to show off her vocal range whilst singing about beers and clockwork monkeys.
A snare fill opens the next song The Moon Is Mine before giving a really nice percussive tempo that makes it hard not to tap your foot too. This song is really quite a catchy and playful song, and perhaps should have been a single.
Up next is Station Street, which is a slower, sadder song by contrast. This song is all about the lyrics, which at time feel a little verbose. Despite that Eddi delivers them perfectly whilst accompanied by acoustic guitars, bass, and more brushed snare.
Eleventh track Whispers has a wonderfully warm sound to it. Acoustic guitars and light percussion weave their way around Eddi’s rich, confident vocals – and she reaches some impressive high notes towards the end. At times it reminds me a little of Something Stupid, but this should perhaps have also been a single.
Allelujah is up next which gives Eddi another opportunity to show off her vocals, although this sounds more like a Beautiful South track.
Penultimate track Walking Backwards has some nice bass/guitar melodies when set alongside Eddi’s vocals. There’s something almost 1940s about this track, musically, lyrically.
The album closes with Mythology, which sees some gentle guitar, bass, and accordion lead us towards Eddi’s vocals. Again, it reminds me at times of My Favourite Things, and perhaps is the reason that it was left off the cassette and LP version. Thankfully this track has some ‘go’ in the chorus, letting Eddi add some volume alongside her bandmates, and the end result is a stronger song that perhaps deserved an earlier appearance on the album and perhaps a single?
Over all, this is a nice album, but sadly quite boring. Aside from Perfect, Whispers, Mythology and Clare, there’s not much else here that I can remember after the final track has played. I suspect that based on the lead single, it sold by the bucketload, but there’s little else to grasp on to. The sound is wonderfully warm, but after 14 tracks of it, it kind of just merges into one. Not quite perfect.
Where are Fairground Attraction now?
Despite two big hits and a BRIT Award for Best Album in 1989 (seeing off The Pasadenas and The Pet Shop Boys), their commercial success saw a sharp decline at singles 3 and 4, the group fractured, with Edie Reader leaving.
A second album, of b-sides and previously unreleased recordings was released in 1990 on the album Ay Fond Kiss, but it stalled in the UK album charts at #55. Their final single, accompanying this album, a cover of Patsy Cline’s hit Walking After Midnight, scraped into the top 100 UK singles chart at #97.
Eddi embarked on her own solo career, which has also included acting. She has continued to record, perform and release music, with her most recent album (her 10th) being Vagabond in 2014.
Meanwhile, Mark E Nevin went on to work with Morrissey.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1988 UK CHART PEAK: #2, certified Platinum
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.