What does it sound like?:
“China Crisis”? , you say. None more 80’s it’s said. Walter Becker ……. What?
Steely Dan’s Walter Becker passed away on the 3rd of September 2017. On the 15th of September China Crisis reissued their first 3 LP’s in Expanded Editions.
What’s the connection? On album 3 Flaunt the Imperfection Walter is credited as a band member and producer. But more of that later.
I’ve been waiting for the reissue of these LP’s for a while now. China Crisis are part of vibrant Liverpool 80’s music scene that produced the Lotus Eaters, The Pale Fountains, Teardrop Explodes and a multitude of other bands. Bands I still love.
The first thing to say is that it’s obvious a lot of work went into the presentation of these releases from the look, album detail and obviously the sound which is pristine. Is it better than it was before? Hard to say but it sounds good to me.
This series kicks off with the first LP with the almost never ending titled debut DIFFICULT SHAPES & PASSIVE RHYTHMS (Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain).
Released in 1982 the “band” at this stage is essentially the duo of vocalist Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon. Check them out on their Top of the Pop’s debut they look like they’ve just mitched out of school. The album itself is typical of its time. Plenty of 80’s synthesizer, Plenty of *80’s Fretless Bass as played by of all people Landscape’s Andy Pask (remember Einstein A Go Go) on the still beautiful Christian.
Mostly produced by Pete Walsh (see also Simple Mind’s New Gold Dream) so you know the sonic space we are perched in, it’s a solid starter album in the China’s cannon with standout tracks “African and White” and already mentioned “Christian” still standing tall.
Extras on the expanded edition include Peel Sessions and demos.
The follow up WORKING WITH FIRE AND STEEL came a year later in 1983. This was a much more sophisticated effort with the band moving away from the syth led sound of the debut. The band were now joined on bass by Gazza Johnson and by the wonderful beat master Kevin Wilkinson on drums.
On first look it was an LP full of tunes and potential singles. The band were being namechecked in the press and peers like David Sylvian. The first single Tragedy and Mystery laid the groundwork for what was to come on future albums especially Flaunt. But this LP’s standout singles “Wishful Thinking” a first cousin to the Lotus Eaters “First Picture of You” and “Hanna Hanna” are still classic pop tunes in any universe.
The expanded edition of WORKING gives up the most bounty. It’s a 3CD ChinaFest. Original LP followed on the second CD by B Sides and 12”s. The Final CD is all of their John Peel Sessions Kid Jenson sessions. It’s great.
The final reissue is FLAUNT THE IMPERFECTION. This is China Crisis hitting their Imperial Phase. Walter Becker comes in and puts shape to the band. The LP was released in 1985. It’s a belter and stands up today as much more timeless than much of the music their peers were producing at the time. It’s on my Desert Island list.
Kicking off with “The Highest High” which has an irresistible funky bass from Gazza Johnson the album just doesn’t let up. It just grooves.
Second Track “Strength of Character” is famous for being Becker’s first take on a drum track. Kevin Wilkinson nailed it perfectly to his astonishment first time.
These are followed by singles “You Did Cut Me” and “Black Man Ray” and we’ve only got to track 4. The LP just smells “Steely”. The rhythm section just swings and we’ve still got “King in a Catholic Style” to go. Still the gem of this LP isn’t a single. Their best track IMHO and a song that still gets the hair standing whenever I hear it. “Bigger The Punch I’m Feeling” is just wonderful. Its sublime and Walter Becker’s arrangement and session player Tim Renwick guitar playing take the Flaunt LP to a completely new place.
The extras on the Expanded Edition includes demos’s B Sides, 12” versions and Janice Long Sessions.
To cut a long story short as another 80’s crew say, I’m so glad that I’ve gotten my hands on these 3 releases. China Crisis deserved to come out of the 80’s with as much cred as say Depeche Mode and are largely forgotten apart from the singles. These releases will put that legacy back where it deserves.
I’ve caught them live the last couple of times the came to Dublin. And you know what. They’re still great. And if you’re lucky you’ll catch Lotus Eaters Peter Coyle along for the ride.
Remember there’s not many bands that can count Walter Becker as a member. Nuff Said!
What does it all *mean*?
It means that this was a band that deserved better. These are reissues that are worthy of your time.
Goes well with…
Anytime. Especially on Flaunt The Imperfection, you’ll find timeless music.
Might suit people who like…
Dan heads will find lots to love on “Flaunt”!
80’s Pop lovers will love “Working”
I think if you like music you’ll like this
Did I mention Flaunt?