Although as reviewers at The Progressive Aspect we are quite free when it comes to form and content of our work, some limitations remain: the subject should clearly belong to the ‘Prog’ category and compilations or ‘best of’ albums are usually a big “no go.” With this review I will overstep my boundaries twice, fair warning.
First of all the genre, the music of Mike + the Mechanics, because that is what this review is about, can hardly be categorized as progressive rock music, make no mistake. At best, it can be qualified as well-crafted and well-produced pop music with alternating an R&B and a rock edge. Then why devote an article to this band? The answer is obvious: the “Mike” from the band name stands for none other than Mike Rutherford, co-founder and bassist/guitarist of Genesis, a band that has helped shaping the foundation of our beloved genre. During his career with Genesis, Rutherford had already released two solo albums, the very symphonic underrated masterpiece Smallcreep’s Day from 1980 and the rather poor Acting Very Strange from 1982. When this all turned out to be not as successful as planned, he founded his hobby band Mike + the Mechanics in 1985, the man himself and his technicians, it couldn’t be more appropriate.
The special thing about the band was the fact that there were two solo singers present: Paul Carrack, formerly of Ace and Squeeze fame, and Paul Young, ex-Sad Café. Although not entirely new, the special combination was very successful and the band delivered recognizable hit successes such as Silent Running, All I Need Is a Miracle, The Living Years, Word of Mouth and Over My Shoulder. Partly thanks to the writers – but especially Paul Carrack’s singing abilities, they stormed the various charts and are still recognizable and easy to sing-along to this day. With varying success, seven albums were released between 1985 and 2010 and the band would regularly perform live, with a small gap in 2007 when Genesis got together briefly for its worldwide reunion tour.
Finally, in 2004, Carrack left the band to give full priority to his solo career and projects. Paul Young had passed away suddenly in 2000 at the age of 53. Enter duo Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar in 2009, the first a gifted R&B singer, the second a recognized musical star. In this line-up, supplemented by loyal drummer Gary Wallis (formerly worked with Pink Floyd and Tom Jones), guitarist/bassist Anthony Drennan (Genesis’ guitarist during the Calling All Stations tour in 1998) and the versatile keyboardist/singer Luke Juby, M+tM produced a limited number of studio albums and performed regularly in both the United Kingdom and Europe. The well-known hits were interpreted slightly differently by the new vocal duo and the arrangements gradually varied from the original.
So what prompted Rutherford et al to record a “new” album some months ago, with “new” deliberately placed in between brackets? Because good-old Mike thought it was time to finally record the new versions of the old well-known material for posterity. So including the not so new singers and, more interestingly, the new arrangements. The latter are mainly in line with the live performances and therefore have a refreshing character. Sometimes this is expressed in another intro such as The Living Years, at other times it is in the improvisation (Get Up) or the ending of the song (Over My Shoulder). Although the spirit of Paul Carrack, in particular, continues to circulate, the band has succeeded in adding another flavour, closer to the band that has been performing these songs for the past ten years. Especially the unsurpassed Andrew Roachford is convincing in the role of Carrack, his flexible and emotional R&B voice really comes into its own. Although personally I am not a big fan of Howar, his contribution should certainly not be qualified as “poor”. At best, his voice sounds somewhat like Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) especially in the harmony vocals, at other times he sounds like the (overly) theatrical musical singer that he actually is.
In addition to the new versions of the old hits, there are also three new songs, of which in particular the title track convinces, a great addition to the wide range of quality pop songs that the band has managed to build up. In addition, the bonus disc of the “special edition” also contains six acoustic versions for the enthusiast, largely recorded live, in which the group can amply express its versatility and musical capabilities. The only question that remains: why not release a full live album with the three new songs as bonus material. Maybe that will come later.
However, all in all not a bad album, certainly not a cross-section compilation of the old hits, polished for the umpteenth time, but a mature piece that does the band in its current line-up more justice. By no means prog, certainly not, but quality pop from the man to whom many of us partly owe our love for symphonic rock music: chief engineer Michael Rutherford. Actually quite nice to sometimes overstep your boundaries.
01. One Way (4:00)
02. Out Of The Blue (3:38)
03. What Would You Do (3:06)
04. The Living Years (6:24)
05. Beggar On A Beach Of Gold (4:09)
06. Get Up (4:20)
07. Another Cup Of Coffee (4:25)
08. All I Need Is A Miracle (6:38)
09. Silent Running (4:55)
10. Over My Shoulder (4:56)
11. Word Of Mouth (4:03)
Time – 50:34
Disc Two ~ Acoustic
01. Don’t Know What Came Over Me (3:59)
02. The Best Is Yet To Come (4:20)
03. The Living Years (5:32)
04. Beggar On A Beach Of Gold (3:54)
05. Another Cup Of Coffee (4:39)
06. Over My Shoulder (3:46)
Time – 27:10
Total Time – 77:44
Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Andrew Roachford – Keyboards, Lead Vocals
Tim Howar – Lead Vocals
Luke Juby – Keyboards, Bass, Saxophone, Vocals
Gary Wallis – Drums, Percussion
Anthony Drennan – Guitars, Bass
Record Label: BMG
Country of origin: U.K.
Date Of Release: 5th April 2019
Mike + the Mechanics – Website | Facebook | Twitter
– Out of the Blue (2019)
– Let Me Fly (2017)
– The Road (2011)
– Rewired (2004)
– Mike & The Mechanics (1999)
– Beggar on a Beach of Gold (1997)
– The Hits (1993)
– Word Of Mouth (1991)
– Living Years (1988)
– Mike + The Mechanics (1985)