Hue And Cry are not a familiar name. Their small handful of ’80s chart toppers are mostly forgotten and have probably been archived on easy listening radio stations throughout the land. But they are back with a new album called Open Soul that only just avoids completely closing the book on their careers.
The Glaswegian twosome, brothers Pat and Greg Kane, appeared on Hit Me Baby One More Time, an ITV reality show which resurrected their profile. They didn’t get very far. But the exposure was enough for them to hit the road again and hope for a hit in the charts. At least this goes some way to explaining this release.
There are a few die-hard fans of the severest kind of MOR music who will enjoy this. Like some kind of torture experiment, this inoffensive fodder will strike pinpricks into many other hearts and eventually hit an unrestrained irritation button. Or it may pass by without a hitch into the world of department store soundtracks.
This is disappointing considering the pair were once so promising, proposed touring with Madonna and Eurythmics, and even had a shot at working with Frank Sinatra in the ’90s. Since then they spent the late ’90s experimenting within the jazz tradition, mixing Afrobeat and drum and bass. Unfortunately this potential is utterly discontinued.
The opening track Fireball sets the lively tone of a high rate jazz ensemble found at your village fete. Such images are consolidated soon after by their version of Beyonce‘s Crazy In Love. Intended to be a highlight, it illuminates the point that, in comparison, Hue And Cry are dispossessed of that quality of energy, flair and skill that leads to longevity and success; think of a poor man’s Tom Jones.
The tuneless, live, pared down piano prelude to the power-RnB-track is the closest thing the brothers get to being engaging. It feels suddenly, incongruously, intimately live, as if we are eavesdropping on a rehearsal of a pretty good band.
Most of the other work uses sweet, conventional backing harmonies. But rather than simply supporting they draw attention away from the meager appeal of Pat’s pallid and paltry, vocal style to a richer and excellent sound.
Lyrically the album suffers too. Stumble Through The Dance: “In a hall somewhere, breathing perfumed air, is a girl I’ve known since before she was born”, “let me be inspired let me not be tired and I’ll stumble through the dance with you with you with you.” Yawn. Or maybe it’s Connect With You “though tattered and torn, broken and ripped nothing left to do but to connect with you yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah”. Yikes! The repetitive and nonsensical attempts to script such saccharine sentiments sink below any standards of good taste.
Funkier fare like C’mon Legs begs the limbs to limber up, dig the beats and dance, but never quite achieves its aim. Next follows the Brubeckian jazz of Twisted Heart. If more tracks had been like either of these the album surely it would have been enjoyable.
Now, although the direction on this album is questionable, it does do the MOR job to a T. It’s the kind of thing you would imagine that Cagney and Lacey would listen to on a road trip if they were still around. Pat’s voice isn’t in its finest form, and maybe this has become the norm. The compositions are pretty dreary and the lyrics are tragically weak and weary. Alas these final lines are not the rhymes their agent pines.