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Out Of The Blue

Mike + The Mechanics - Out Of The Blue (2019)

New recordings of classic tracks and three brand new songs


I have been following the evolution of the Mechanics for years with sympathy for many years now. The band really rock hard live. After their transitional album The Road in 2011 they went on to release a very worthwhile successor with Let Me Fly (2017). Eight years after the relaunch of the Mechanics they release an album one would have expected them at the beginning of the relaunch. The idea: Put out three new songs and a handful of classics newly recorded by the new line-up. Does it make sense to do that after two full-blown studio records? We want to find answers to this question in this review.

The album is called Out Of The Blue, and it comes in several versions. The standard CD is a digipak with a booklet. It reveals that the album was produced by Mike Rutherford and Paul Meehan and that Mike’s son Harry was the sound engineer. Then there is a 2CD set in a high format mediabook (see image below). The second CD contains six other acoustic re-recordings. The album is also available on vinyl and as a digital download.

The artwork is well known as it has been used already to promote the Looking Back (Over My Shoulder) Tour. So you find the baloons with artwork from previous Mechanics albums on the cover of Out Of The Blue as well. The singles don't have the baloons, just the blue background. That looks like a catchy idea, but obviously this should not be used in the future any more.


Tracks on the CD are:

AlbumOne Way
Out Of The Blue
What Would You Do

The Living Years
A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold

Get Up
Another Cup Of Coffee

All I Need Is A Miracle
Silent Running

Over My Shoulder
Word Of Mouth


The bonus disc of the special edition offers acoustic versions of these six tracks:

Don't Know What Came Over Me
The Best Is Yet To Come
The Living Years

Beggar On A Beach Of Gold
Another Cup Of Coffee

Over My Shoulder


Mike Rutherford says about the new recordings: "Having toured with the Mechanics over the last 10 years, I have heard the old songs change a bit each year with Andrew and Tim singing and the same band playing. In some cases they have been extended and developed - so it seemed a good idea to record these versions in the studio. Anyone who has seen us live will I’m sure like to hear the old ones in this form as they show how the two singers work so well together. Especially on a song like ‘Get Up’ which has become a double lead vocal.“

He also said about the acoustic rerecordings on the bonus CD and the three new tracks: "Recording the unplugged version was like in the old days - down the stairs into a basement studio not fifty yards away from Trident Studios where we recorded Genesis’ second and third albums. We recorded these live and Tim and Andrew led the songs with great vocal performances, and we mixed it as we recorded it - like in the past. No wonder albums took a maximum of three weeks to complete then! We have also written and recorded three new songs which show the Mechanics next stage - I hope!”


The songs:

One Way

Andrew Roachford sings all three new songs. One Way begins quietly with a beat and sound that reminds me of Rewired. Further Rewired elements reappear after the first chorus. It is a pleasant song with a fine melody that follows a traditional pattern of verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / chorus. Surprising elements such as the guitar part after the bridge show up here and there, but the wow effect is rather small.

Out Of The Blue

The title song could already be heard a couple of weeks before the release. It is a fine radio song with a catchy melody somewhere between up-tempo and easy listening. The sound is rather flat, though: Neither the instruments nor the intensity change very much for the chorus, with only Andrew singing a bit stronger. The song structure is the same as for One Way.


What Would You Do

The third new song reminds me of the Rewired sound again in the beginning. It is the strongest of the three new songs that were all written by Mike Rutherford, Andrew Roachford and Clark Datchler, who already worked on Let Me Fly. What Would You Do has a slightly different structure. All three songs have no real ending – they fade out.

The Living Years

A new version of The Living Years came out in 2014, now here is another new recording. As in a live show this begins with a kind of improvised intro. Andrew sings his way towards the song title on a warm blanket of keyboard sounds until the familiar guitar sound, i.e. Mike’s traditional ticketing, begins. The new recording has no surprising chances and sticks to the original, apart from the introduction, of course. Unlike the three new songs this is obviously, audibly, a band recording with real drums. It has a fade-out, though …

Beggar On A Beach Of Gold

The title has lost an “A”, and the keyboard sound right at the beginning seems a bit over the top. Tim Howar’s first performance as vocalist on this album is a track that has been one of –the- live classics for years. He sings somewhat restrained, though, and shies away from the high notes in the chorus. His vocal performance in this recording is not the very best – and we know from the concerts just what he can do. The song does not fade out but is played to the very end.

Out Of The Blue DeluxeGet Up

One of the songs that have developed into a kind of duet between Roachford and Howard over the years, with Roachford singing all the verses. Get Up is one of few songs that capture the live feeling of recent tours. Mike adds a brief solo. Very nice: No fade-out on this song.

Another Cup Of Coffee

The next classic has the same rhythm sound, but stronger bass. Roachford sings the main vocals, Howar can be heard backing up. The new versions sounds freshened up, but oddly restrained and sticks too much to the original. The fade-out in the end is a bit surprising …

All I Need Is A Miracle

It's the third studio version of this track, and the first with Tim Howar on vocals. The 1996 re-recording was very strong, and it was clear that they would not change all that much here. The song fits Howar, and it is one of the classics no live show could do without. It sounds rougher than the original (like the ’96 version) and also has the guitar interlude. Howar adds the “all I want … all I need” adlibs he is so fond of doing live. No fade-out here.

Silent Running

The song begins very much like the original minus the intro: There is a brief keyboard sound, and then the verse begins. Towards the middle of the song Mike plays the solo we know from the live shows. The final verse differs from the original in that there are very few instruments in it before bass and drums return. Another solo from Mike follows before the full-stop ending.

Over My Shoulder 2019Over My Shoulder

This song could be heard before the album came out. Why the band chose to copy the sound of the original so closely is anyone’s guess. They had the opportunity to try out a new arrangement – but as it is it sounds like the 1995 version with a different singer. Towards the end elements from the live version come in before another full-stop ending. Still, this version gives ambivalent impressions, particularly after a very similar Another Cup Of Coffee. Do we need that? No, we don’t.

Word Of Mouth

Same impression here. The song begins almost like the original with its fake live atmosphere. It sounds very good but leaves you wondering why they did not make more out of the song. It also has a fade-out, though it deserves a proper ending.


The bonus tracks (acoustic versions)

As we have said above, the special edition comes in a high format mediabook with a slightly extended booklet that contains more photos than the digipak booklet.
The acoustic version of Don’t Know What Came Over Me is a kind of piano ballad supported by bass. This version is much stronger than the original on Let Me Fly. Note that there is no acoustic guitar…
Special Edition CD… which is not the case for The Best Is Yet To Come. This acoustic version has the piano in the foreground, but Mike’s acoustic guitar can be heard clearly though it never moves to the front. Tim’s voice sounds very good in this recording, and I wonder why they did not choose a more acoustic version for Let Me Fly. A really fine new version.
The band move into difficult terrain with The Living Years. The song is rooted deeply in the fans’ ears; it thrives on the choral sound, that sound blanket and the grand vocals, regardless whether they are sung by Paul Carrack or Andrew Roachford. They seem to play it safe here. You hear a piano, some bass, and Mike plays the well-known rhythm on his acoustic guitar. Roachford has a slightly idiosyncratic way of singing (with strong contrasts between high and low vocals), but you can hear that this version was recorded rather spontaneously. Towards the end you can clearly hear a blanket of keyboard sounds, so this version is not quite acoustic.
The version of Beggar On A Beach Of Gold is very interesting. Once more we hear piano, bass and accompanying guitar play together. This stripped-down version has a whole different flair, it is unconventional, direct, pleasant. And it is a hundred times better than the new studio version. Tim is much more at ease singing here than in the band version. He really sounds confident and strong in this version.
Another Cup Of Coffee has slight electronic keyboard sounds. Ray Wilson has also frequently covered this song in an all-acoustic version, and it is very much suited for that treatment. The guitar is used unobtrusively here; it could have been moved more to the front, while the less than acoustic keyboard sounds are to overbearing.
You can’t go very wrong with an acoustic version of Over My Shoulder. The only thing you need to do is drop the preprogrammed rhythm. And that’s what they do. It is also the only song carried by the acoustic guitar, though is is not mixed to the front and makes Roachford’s voice the core element.
Interestingly, none of the six new versions has any drums on it, and no other instruments were added.

formats


All in all

It seems that this album was thrown together hastily and without much thought. The Mechanics’ previous album came out two years ago and received much acclaim. With various indications in the last couple of months that the band were working on a new album everybody thought this would be an album full of new material. Nobody would have minded waiting another year for a follow-up album. Hence the surprise when it turned out that Out Of The Blue contained only three new songs and eight re-recordings of familiar hits.

Having said that, Mike Rutherford’s approach for this new album is not wrong at all. The band have toured a lot. All those many live performances have shaped a new character for the old songs, and it makes good sense to pick up on that. The three new songs are a bit too similar to each other (and they are all sung by Roachford). They sound rather restrained and frequently lack the drive and force of the live versions, which raises the question: Why not release a live album with three new songs as bonus material? That would have been a good move, and it would have captured their excellent live performance. As they are, the song sound not as good as they can, and that does not live up to this brilliant live band. The outstanding vocals by both singers seem a bit lost in music in some places. It also feels like they didn't explore some options and possibilities, since they sticked to the originals quite closely.

Though not brilliant, the three new songs do sound good. Nevertheless the new acoustic versions are the highlights of the album and are better than the new band versions. So we can say that it was a good idea to have such a special edition with bonus tracks. Together with the chosen format, this really nice mediabook, it is in fact a nice thing for fans. Still: A full-blown live album would probably have had much more impact. Out Of The Blue does not offer any real added value – neither for the fans nor for casual listeners who want to listen to some of the band’s highlights. We look forward to a full new studio album and/or a real live album.

Author: Christian Gerhardts
English by Martin Klinkhardt


Order the complete album here:

2CD, CD, Vinyl: amazon-UK
Digital: iTunes
All physical formats: Mechanics Webshop

The band is touring Europe, check out the details on our tour dates page.


Mike + The Mechanics 2019

Photo: BMG

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