Reasons to review Black Rain:
1. You like Fish
2. You like Fridays
3. The name of the band appeals
This is Album 5, I have now listened to three of the others as well as Black Rain. If I had to place without prejudice, The Alan Parsons Project meets Prefab Sprout would suit, two artists I hold in high regard. The production and the playing leans towards Alan Parsons, whilst I find the structure and general ambience to be more Prefab Sprout. By the nature of the beast, it floats between these two areas. There is no one vocalist, Lula Beggs gives voice on four tracks, and particularly good they are. She may be the hook they need to lift the band to that higher plateau. But it is good, there is a warmth, and although I didn’t find it instantaneous, there’s a familiarity that sits comfortable with reading and listening, and just listening. More so than the download, the CD reveals some different and deft touches.
Life in Towns opens in a catchy ‘you will be singing it soon’ kind of way. Soft intro with, I assume, rain, though I keep hearing it as ‘Live In France’ rather than ‘towns’. Sibilance I suppose, quite Alan Parson, there are many layers, but for my taste just a little syrupy. It does grow on you with repeated listens, far more than I expected, and is quite a dreamy piece.
I should say that there is a brief to this album, you could even say concept, as it attempts to address issues, such as the parlous state of the world, the increasingly bizarre politics, climate change… boy, are we in a mess.
Murderous Highland Highway considers war, and the refugees it creates. It is hard to write about these things and not sound sanctimonious, but they do it well, and if it raises awareness with just one, then there is hope for the planet. I think what I would have liked to see though is a link pertinent to each song in the booklet, at the end of the lyrics. A checked fact strengthens the power of a researched song, far more convincing. I think it is possible to be informative without coming across as sanctimonious (I don’t think they have been, but you know the sort of preachy lyrics I mean).
Black Rain: Deep and emotive, you are drawn into its narrative. After taking a few days break from it, my opinion has risen. This has a little bit of a U2 element about it in the intro, but then mellows out. This is a long time since first listen and the mood is right for a little Fish on Friday. It is at times poppy rather than proggy, and for that lift above similar artists, spark if you like, the tracks with Lula Beggs are the strongest. Great harmonies, musicianship, and I suppose, if prog could get the air play, radio friendly.
Mad at the World, yeah, me too, then I think, change what you can. Letting Go of You again highlights the importance of Ms Beggs, her voice adds to and strengthens the harmonies, and it’s the first track to raise a smile, well, until I hear Donald Trump.
The closing ballad is Diamonds, and it rounds off a genuinely nice album, nay, a good album, that comes to a close with a sort of warm and fuzzy touch. I find that I like Fish on Friday, I like what they do, and though there is a distinct FOF style, no two albums are alike. Black Rain can be seen as a further step in that development. The illuminati that comprise the band are strong writers and performers, and Lula is a developing voice with depth and character, things that can give a band a distinct and pleasing sound.
Black Rain continues the vein of its predecessors, the concepts they have addressed, well delivered providing food (fish food?) for thought. It is an album worthy of attention, and in Lula Beggs they may have found the spark that makes them stand apart from the crowd. I have enjoyed the music immensely, but I find that the enjoyment for the most part is in the joy of listening to the memorable parts, but not the whole album (for me). Others may be of a differing opinion, such is life.
Stand outs for me are the catchy We’ve Come Undone and the multi-styled Trapped Heaven and We Choose to Be Happy
In an afternoon playlist, it has its place, enjoyable, but not essential for me. I will revisit and probably say to myself, “What were you thinking?” but for now, yes, especially those female enhanced vocal tracks, a nice diversion from the main road.
01. Life In Towns (5:39)
02. Murderous Highland Highway (8:15)
03. Black Rain (4:54)
04. Mad At The World (4:59)
05. Letting Go Of You (6:50)
06. Angel Of Mercy (4:51)
07. We’ve Come Undone (5:10)
08. Morphine (3:11)
09. We Choose To Be Happy (3:27)
10. Trapped In Heaven (4:07)
11. Diamonds (4:22)
Total Time – 55:45
Nick Beggs – Bass, Chapman Stick, Backing Vocals
Frank Van Bogaert – Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals, Producer & Arranger
Marty Townsend – Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Mandolin
Marcus Weymaere – Drums, Percussion
Lula Beggs – Vocals