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 – Torch

19 02 2014

Thomas Lang - "Torch"Torch is the first new album from the Liverpool singer-songwriter Thomas Lang since Versions in 1996. Like Versions, the majority of the new album consists of cover versions. But where Versions was in some ways a homage to soul music, this pays tribute to late night, smokey jazz. For an artist so well known for his electrifying live performances, this is surprisingly only Lang’s second live release.

Torch opens with a cover of the Paul McCartney classic Maybe I’m Amazed. Recorded live in the studio, with just piano and no overdubs, stripped of the full band of the Macca original, it’s a powerful performance of one of the finest McCartney solo songs.

The rest of the album was recorded live during an intimate show at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in April 2011. As someone who attended the live concert, Torch is a great reminder of the evening, though sadly Lang’s between song quips are not part of the live album, which would have necessitated a double or triple album release to accommodate the often lengthy Lang tales!

The performances on Torch are subtle and restrained – listen to the end of the Torch version of Me & Mrs Jones below. The raw emotion in the performance seeps through, making this my favourite version of the song (surpassing the studio version from the debut Thomas Lang album, Scallywag Jaz…).

Masquerade (previously recorded by Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye to name but two) is a highlight of the album. The arrangement with just piano, sax and Lang’s powerful, rich vocals feels so right – see what I did there, Lang fans?

Torch has a real feel of the late 50s and early 1960s, especially on Billie Holiday’s tale of addiction, Good Morning Heartache. Some wonderful sax and guitar interplay from Paul Thomas and John Wheatcroft on this song.

My Prayer, a huge hit for The Platters in 1956, has a bossa-nova feel that takes you back to a long-lost era of our parents and their music collections that were filled with Elvis, Neil Sedaka and Connie Francis records. Younger listeners will recognise My Prayer from the David Fincher film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

© Brian Roberts

God Bless the Child was previously included as a studio cut on the Versions album, but this live recording is closer to the Billie Holiday arrangement. The band get a wonderful laidback groove going on this song. Another great take of God Bless the Child is a wonderful 1980s version by Billy MacKenzie and The Associates from a Radio 1 session. But I digress…

The album ends with Shoelaces, from Scallywag Jaz… continuing the Mrs Jones story and the only Lang original song on the album.

Hopefully the release of Torch will see Thomas taking the band on tour, so we can hear more Lang originals given jazz re-workings, maybe with some other long-lost classic songs re-worked (I’ve always thought a Thomas Lang version of Rickie Lee Jones On Saturday Afternoons In 1963 or Steely Dan’s Dirty Work would be worth hearing).

But for now, dim the lights, pour a glass of your favourite tipple and enjoy Torch. It’s good to have you back Tom.

Torch tracklisting:

Maybe I’m Amazed
In The Wee Small Hours
He Needs Me
Me and Mrs Jones
My Prayer
Masquerade
Loverman
Good Morning Heartache
God Bless The Child
Shoelaces

Buy the CD from Amazon UK

Other Thomas Lang releases
August Day / Scared mp3 single on Amazon

Scallywag Jaz and more – the best of Thomas Lang mp3 album on Amazon

The Lost Letter Z mp3 album on Amazon

Live in Tokyo mp3 album on Amazon

Versions mp3 album on Amazon

Feels so Right mp3 EP on Amazon

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood mp3 EP on Amazon








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