on 9 October 2012
Secret Affair were probably `The' band of the 1979 Mod renaissance and, together with The Purple Hearts and The Chords, formed the core of the best elements of this subcultural renewal. With more to offer than many of their rivals (more soulful rather than post-punk) they released 3 great albums and 6 blistering singles before calling it a day.
30 years later, Secret Affair are back with a new studio album, `Soho Dreams', comprising 10 new originals and 1 cover version. But it's not quite as black and white as that - the band's first comeback show was in 2002, and recording sessions for the new album go back as far as 2006 (see Ian Page's interview on the official Secret Affair website for the full story). But what really matters is that they are back recording original material in a way that only this band could.
As always with Ian Page, the production values are high (remember the Mod Aid 20 single and the first Grasp single that he produced for Biff Bang Pow Records, as well as working on the first Fay Hallam Trinity album, `Realm'), and this album is no exception. The quality of recordings, arrangements, musical accompaniments are all top drawer. The gatefold sleeve comes with a 12-page booklet, and the release is out on their iconic I-Spy label.
From the opening (and title) track, ` Soho Dreams', we get Dave Cairns distinctive guitar sound, Ian Page's unique voice (that still has all the character and tone that made the first 3 albums so special) and a blast of Dave Winthrop's sax reminding us of past glories. The next song, `Walk Away', is big and demonstrates the incredible range of Ian's voice along with a determined guitar riff. The pace quickens further for the excellent and immediate, `Turn Me On', (which would make a great single) before slowing right down (initially) for `Love's Unkind'. Starting with a piano arpeggio, this song builds in power and is a very strong composition. The `Get Carter' melody is then used as the intro/outro and musical middle-break for the only cover version on the album, `I Don't Need No Doctor'. This is a full-on Hammond and horns assault that you just know will be a favourite on the extensive UK tour that Secret Affair are undertaking in September, October and November. The whole band cuts loose to make this a very memorable performance.
Next up is `Lotus Dream' complete with the sound of crickets as the country blues acoustic guitar builds up and Ian Page starts his vocals in a low register. Not the most immediate song on the album, its appeal grows on further plays as more layers become apparent. `In Our Time', although starting and ending with Ian's voice, actually features Dave Cairns on lead vocals for the main body of the song and shows what a good voice he has. The first song that a reunited Cairns & Page composed, `Land of Hope', is next and is another anthemic Secret Affair number that will soon have you singing along to it. This is followed by the pacey `All The Rage' which is classic Secret Affair and would also make a very good single.
As the piano at the beginning of `Soul Of The City' plays with its lazy jazz feel, the thought of early Style Council enters my mind (which is no bad thing) until Ian's voice comes in and takes the song to another level. The album closes with `Ride' which really picks up the pace again and ends the collection on a high.
Overall, this is a high quality album that I really like and that sees the band stay true to the essence of the sound and style of their early days, albeit with a little more maturity and a fuller band sound (due, in part, to the Hammond & horns). There are glimpses of `Glory Boys' and `Business As Usual' here, along with a good helping of the ingredients that make `Behind Closed Doors' such a classic album. I have been playing `Soho Dreams' for 4-weeks now and for me, this fourth Secret Affair album now sits proudly alongside its predecessors.
on 10 September 2012
Long been a fan of Secret Affair of old, having been the first proper band I saw live at the Odeon in Canterbury 1979/80. Still listen to my vinyl from that period, which stills sound good to this day. So I was very interested in a this new release. Only had the one listen so far, and I can thoroughly recommend it. There seems to be more power to the music this time round, especially in my favourite track, 'In our time'. The distinctive drumbeat is still here, with the choppy guitars ever present throughout the album. Mr Pages voice is recognisable and reminiscent of past glories. In my opinion this is a very good album, with great songs. Well worth a buy if you are a long time fan, or a new one.
on 20 September 2012
I already like Secret Affair. A lot. That said, this may well be their best album. Coming after a 30 year gap I'd never expected there to be a 4th LP so it was received with a fair amount of anticipation and it is no disappointment. The opening few seconds have a 'What is this' effect but then everything comes together and the music takes off. The punch and tightness is still there and although instantly recognisable as Secret Affair the style has evolved with several songs displaying very Who-esque power and melody line - notably the album opener and on track-of-the-album In Our Time. The cover of the R&B standard I Don't Need No Doctor is pure exhilaration and must be Pretty Damn Good live, whilst Soul Of The City is classic Secret Affair managing to be slick and dirty at the same time. I don't know another band that can pull that style. The whole album is Pure Quality.
on 3 October 2012
I wasn't sure what to expect when purchasing Soho Dreams, the band haven't released an album for many years, many other groups who have attempted this fail because simply the magic is no longer there.
That is not the case with Soho Dreams, it blends the sound of a classic yet updated Secret Affair style with a great blend of soul and Jazz. The album is intense, at times reflective at others and a 100 miles per hour of pure energy as well. There is no doubt that a 100% has been given by the band, and it's an effort to be proud of. There are a few songs on the album which I would consider to be classics.
As another reviewer stated the album deserves to be a smash, it won't be... but for music lovers it's like finding buried treasure.
on 12 September 2012
Always been a fan of Secret Affair since they first started some 30 years ago, Soho Dreams still captures all the same passion the band had back then, in maybe a slightly more mature way (In Our Time)being an example, for some reason reminds me of something from the Quadrophenia album, could have been a Daltrey/Townshend composition. This is a must for all Secret Affair fans, most of who will have seen the band live over the past 6 or so years and will have been well primed for what was to come, you won't be let down. The fast the slow, thumping beats, swirling Hammond organ, soulful brass section, Dave Cairn's distinctive driving guitar and Page's ability to put life's observations in to words, it's all there... go get!
on 6 August 2013
Having been a fan of Secret Affair for over 30 years this album was the jewel in the crown for me. The band sound better than ever, sharper and tighter than ever. Now with the addition of the hammond and full brass section it is really in a class of its own. Really look forward to seeing them play this on the tour starting in August and to be able to get the long awaited vinyl. A masterpiece.
on 9 February 2013
Secret Affair were formed in 1978 just as a Mod movement was taking shape. They had two hit singles, "Time For Action" and "My World". The movement had all but died away by 1982 and their third album was a commercial failure, they disbanded midway through that year. In June 2002 singer Ian Page and guitarist/songwriter Dave Cairns reformed Secret Affair to perform and record. Soho Dreams was released in September 2012 through Secret Affair's iconic label, "I-SPY Records" and is the bands first studio album since reuniting.
The album gets off to a catchy start with title track "Soho Dreams" and that catchyness follows on all the way through to the end of the album. The majority of the songs have a fast tempo with heavy drum, guitar and trumpet use, which the band is known for. Tracks 6. and 10. "Lotus Dream" and "Soul of the City" are more chilled out and rather relaxing. The band have introduced some electronic sounds to their music that has fit in well. Lyrics are rather average and that's what let me down with this album.
Something else I'd like to add is; I didn't hear anything about this album until a friend recommended it 6 months after its release. With more publicity a lot more copies could of been sold and Soho Dreams could of even been a minor hit. I'm gonna get my dad a copy, he was a Mod and Suedehead back in the day and I'd recommend this to anyone else interested in Mod Revival, New Wave and power pop.
All in all, a cracking good listen but sadly nothing ground breaking.
[Please comment and give me some tips on improving my reviewing skills. Thanks!]
on 10 December 2013
Leaving aside ,for the moment ,that this is a Secret Affair album and the music on the album - Id like to point out a few things about the vinyl.Firstly and quite importantly its perfection ! The pressing its self is a slab of gorgeous dark red thick vinyl complimented with now iconic black 'I-spy records ' label,black inner sleeve ,looks great ! Nice cover shot of Ian and Dave ,Gatefold sleeve with full lyrics,Band photo, Snap shots the soho area ,Limited hand numbered - how could vinyl be better [it couldn't !] - it really does look and sound cool [and iv brought a few records over the years!]
A for the tunes well I guess the biggest compliment I can give is that it is as good as the previous 3 albums from 'the day'.This is what you hope for with a 'comeback' and this time round this is what you get.From the intro of 'Soho Dreams' which is reminiscent of the debut album 'Glory Boys' you just know this is heading somewhere good.The Album is all in place and all the ingredients are there to completes a run of now FOUR essential and classic Secret Affair albums.If you are an old fan or someone doing there homework on classic bands you are going to love this album.
I really wanted this album when it was first out on CD thinking in an idea world Id hear it first on vinyl and ,as they say ,somethings are worth waiting for - and it was !
Theres my review and I never mentioned the word Mod once ...........damn! Mentioned it !
on 25 March 2014
I picked up a signed cd of this at the Bristol show and am so pleased I did. Could have plumped for one of the original classic albums (gotta update my vinyl - I've been hammering the Castle double cd compilation for ages). This is fresh, confident and new and packs a punch, sounds like Ian and David still have the hunger. The best of the old affair with a mature kick.
As to the show, I love the choice of Dance Master (from the criminally neglected Business as Usual album) as opener. Fans who know the opening lines will know what I mean. There was humour in Secret Affair too, honest !
on 15 September 2012
Its been a long time coming, but the fourth studio album from Secret Affair seems to have majestically combined elements from all the previous 3 as well as some more modern interpretations. Its all there, the trademark Secret Affair percussion, the Hammond organs, the sax, the driving Cairns guitar and the trademark Page vocal. (If a little deeper!)
Each track has something a little different, although Land Of Hope, I Dont Need No Doctor, and In our Time stand out. It wont be, but it deserves to be an absolute smash. Go buy!