Thomas Lang – Scallywag Jaz (2 disc 30th anniversary edition)

11 11 2017

THOMAS-LANGFinally available again, in a 2 disc, expanded 30th anniversary edition, is Scallywag Jaz by Thomas Lang, one of the best albums from the late 80s.

You may have seen Thomas and his band supporting Alison Moyet or Suzanne Vega in the late 80s, or caught the band on one of their many tours. You most definitely would have heard the most well-known Thomas Lang song – The Happy Man – on the radio or seen the song performed on The Tube.

But there is much more to Scallywag Jaz than The Happy Man.  A fine version of the Billy Paul standard Me & Mrs Jones, along with the Hart & Rodgers Have You Met Miss Jones? and the original Shoelaces (Mrs Jones Part 2) tell the age-old story of lust and betrayal.

One of the standout tracks (and it still sounds wonderful performed live over 30 years later) is the albums opening track, Fingers & Thumbs.

A dark, brooding piece that really highlights the strengths of the early Thomas Lang material.

The albums pop / jazz feel led to comparisons to Sade at the time, but there was more depth to the material on Scallywag Jaz. Listen to the album and you will find yourselves telling all your friends that you have discovered one of the UK’s finest vocalists, and you cannot believe why he is not a household name. Be warned – don’t say I didn’t tell you.

Injury is lyrically the darkest track on the album, and features one of Tom’s finest vocals.

“If I could choose your injury
I would tear your heart into pieces”

Sleep With Me has long been one of my favourite Lang tracks, and it has not dated at all. Such strong swagger in this one!

Spirit features backing vocals from Sam Brown and some great bass and guitar work from John Murphy. John is now a successful film composer – whose work includes 28 Days Later & Sunshine.

The 30th anniversary reissue pulls together may long-lost Lang tracks from the era – of which the anti-war Sons Of is a particular highlight. The playful, fairground evoking arrangement (a great production by band-member David A Hughes) works so well with the dark, emotional lyrics.

“Sons of true love or sons of regret
All of the sons you cannot forget”

The second disc is a treasure trove for Lang fans. A couple of versions of The Happy Man, including the Robin Millar produced 2nd single version, kick off the disc.

Other notable rarities include a demo version of Sleep With Me, and a track from the rare as hens teeth vinyl only EP, Red, available on CD for the first time.

One of Tom’s finest early songs, The More That You Expect, is a highlight of disc 2. This song could easily have made the final cut on the original Scallywag Jaz release.

A couple of newer songs, recorded a couple of years ago appear halfway through the album. Thomas recently wrote that “Scared is about how difficult and painful it was to come out. Now I know how important it was to be honest and not to be scared, as its only made me stronger.” Scared is powered by a strong bass heavy groove and was co-written in the 90s with the late John Uriel. Vocally Tom sounds better than ever on Scared and the more uptempo Americana of I Believe.

The remainder of the album is made up of live tracks – from the Live in Tokyo 1991 limited release and some more recent, previously unreleased recordings from Liverpool. These tracks will really whet your appetite for the 2018 Scallywag Jaz tour that is on the horizon.

So first off buy the definitive version of the lost 80s classic that is Scallywag Jaz. Then buy the most recent Thomas Lang studio album, The German Alphabet. Ok, all done? Good – now why not follow Thomas Lang on Twitter and look out for the 2018 tour dates. You can now pat yourself on the back for acquiring such fine taste in music. It feels good, doesn’t it?

Buy Scallywag Jaz: 2 Disc Expanded 30th Anniversary Edition from Amazon

Buy The German Alphabet (CD) by Thomas Lang

Buy The German Alphabet (Vinyl) by Thomas Lang

Buy Torch (CD) by Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang – The German Alphabet

4 09 2016

thomas-lang-the-german-alphabet-webTo say that there has been a long wait for The German Alphabet, the first studio album from Liverpool singer-songwriter Thomas Lang in 20 years, is an understatement. Even Kate Bush has released 3 albums during that period, and Kate Bush albums are rarer than hen’s teeth (insert your own cliche here).

Now that’s out of the way, is The German Alphabet any good? Oh yes its good, you will be pleased to hear.

If you are a fan of Scallywag Jaz, Little Moscow and The Lost Letter Z, you will not be disappointed. *That voice* is still in fine form, but if you are expecting a re-run of the first 3 studio albums, The German Alphabet does not retread old ground. Its exactly the sort of album you would expect to hear from Thomas Lang in 2016, and is not a nostalgia-fest.

Album Theme

The aspect of the album that jumps out straight away is the theme – musically the album is a nod to John Barry, Ennio Morricone and ambitious film soundtracks. In fact, the songs themselves are like short films, with a strong narrative running throughout the lyrics.

Kicking off with the albums title track, flutes and a high in the mix bass-line sit amongst dark electronics. An almost spaghetti western guitar line features on this (and several tracks) and The German Alphabet is topped off with a high-energy vocal performance from Thomas. The arrangement is wonderful on this song – strings and horns dip in and out of the mix, without over-staying their welcome.

After an up-tempo start, Rain slows things down. The arrangement sounds like Portishead meets Massive Attack. Rain is one of the trilogy of very electronic tracks on the album, and contains one of the finest vocal performances from Thomas. I love the breakdown towards the end of this song, with some Robert Fripp-like electronics and sweeping strings. I think this will be one of the most popular songs on the album amongst fans.

Shaken not stirred

Pale Imitation is surely a contender as a future Bond theme. This is a classic Lang tune – with some lovely (almost progressive) organ and smooth percussion under-pinning an emotional vocal performance.

“I’ve got a plan but you won’t get behind it”

Pale Imitation reveals itself to you over repeated plays – with little details rising in and out of the arrangement.

Tom-Parr-St-15.05.16

Film Stars you may already know, as it first appeared on the 1990 (cassette only) Refugees From Little Moscow EP. I’ve always hoped this song would get a wider audience, as it contains one of Thomas’ best vocals.

Just piano and voice, its a delight and Thomas channels his inner Rickie Lee Jones on this track. And I could be wrong, but towards the end, it sounds like Mr Lang lights up a smoke to see him through to the end of the song. Now that’s jazz!

Pulse is the first track I heard from the album, around a year ago. It has evolved from the early take, but remains by far the most electronic track on the album. The rhythm is in the pulsing synths, as there is no acoustic percussion, and it has a late 80s / early 90s feel.

The strings (and vocals) on the chorus are simply heart-wrenching. It remains one of my favourite tracks on the album.

“I touch your face, so cruel”

Vegas baby!

I think Klee records flew Martin Scorsese in to help Thomas write the lyrics for Be Missing, as its a pure 1970’s Las Vegas / Gangster flick-in-a-song.

Be Missing is also the first appearance of a (Scallywag) Jaz(z) arrangement on the album, mixed with some early 90s Portishead thrown in for good measure.

Lyrically, Be Missing is probably Thomas’ finest hour, and I love the crazy toms / mournful vocals on the tracks outro. Its all very high drama, and is definitely Goodfellas in song form.

“They dug a hole in the sand that’s true – and maybe its your size”

Colorado Boulevard is a gem of a tune, and is a beautiful late night torch ballad. Dim the lights, sip on some expensive whiskey (on the rocks of course) and wallow in this song.

Smokey, slow strings and trumpet power this expensive sounding, as powerful as Sinatra, jazz diamond. Over time, I think this song will sneak into my heart as one of my top 10 favourite Lang tracks.

Swing me baby one more time

I Go Wild (BBV) is the big-band version (a more acoustic, stripped back take is available on the LP version of the album). Its dripping with Vegas panache – the song is driven by a joyous ensemble that makes you run upstairs and slip on your tuxedo every time you play it (or maybe that’s just me).

Michael Bublé would pay a million bucks to swing this hard, ain’t that a fact.

Lucky Me dials down the tempo, and is the album’s sweetest ballad. Another top-notch vocal (and lyrical) performance, I’m sure this song will be a favourite on the forthcoming live dates.

“No moonlight and roses, we’ve been here forever”

Lucky Me name-checks some of the musical (and political) heavyweights, and Tom’s vocals ooze class.

Talking of heavyweights – Kiss The Canvas is a love-song to the pugilist arts, and is well-timed, coming in the year we lost “The greatest”, Muhammad Ali.

I remember going to a London Lang gig in the early 90s and the band were all crowded round the TV post-gig watching a Benn / Eubank fight (if my memory serves me well), and Tom’s love of boxing is clear on Kiss The Canvas.

Kiss The Canvas tells the story of the darker side of the sport, more pay to lose than pay-to-view.

The album doesn’t run out of steam, ending on two very strong songs. Sugar Don’t Work has a feel of early Goldfrapp, and is another of those songs that comes into its own after dark.

If David Lynch is looking for a lead song for the forthcoming Twin Peaks series, he should take a listen to the dark beauty of Sugar Don’t Work.

The darkest song on The German Alphabet, Watchman closes the album. The last of the electronic trilogy of tracks, there is a feeling of cold-war paranoia in the lyrics and a little of the spirit of Billy Mackenzie and The Associates in the music of Watchman.

Lost till I found you

An honorary mention must go to Lost Till I Found You, from the vinyl version of the album. One of the final songs from the DA Hughes / John Murphy / Lang partnership, its worth buying the vinyl album for this one song alone. Like the theme tune from a great, lost 80s movie, its no leftover.

Lost Till I Found You captures some of the best parts of the late 80s / early 90s  – the emotive synths and the subtle drums, and would be a highlight of any of Lang’s albums.

It looks as if this song can be bought in digital format from Amazon from 30th September.

“Winds blow through, rains came down – lost till I found you, lost till I found you”

I hope all fans of Thomas Lang’s music get to hear The German Alphabet, as its a vital part of the Lang catalogue of work. The album has clearly been put together by Thomas and the musicians who play on the album with so much love and attention. I hope we don’t have to wait 20 years to hear the next album.

Buy The German Alphabet

Dusseldorf (CD)

The German Alphabet / Rain / Pale Imitation / Film Stars / Pulse / Be Missing / Colorado Boulevard / I Go Wild (BBV) / Lucky Me / Kiss The Canvas / Sugar Don’t Work / Watchman

Buy the CD from Klee Music

Buy the CD on Amazon (includes mp3 version)

Munich (vinyl)

The German Alphabet / Rain / Pale Imitation / Lost Till I Found You / Pulse / Be Missing / Lucky Me (alt version) / I Go Wild (alt version) / Sugar Don’t Work / Watchman

Buy the vinyl from Klee Music

Buy the vinyl on Amazon (includes mp3 version)

Find out more about Thomas Lang

Visit the Thomas Lang website / Follow Thomas on Twitter

Visit the Klee Music website








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