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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The maestro of County Durham is back
"You surely are a truly gifted kid / But you're only as good as the last great thing you did." These famous words from the Prefab Sprout song "Moving the River" echo in my mind as I listen to the new album "Crimson/Red" for the umpteenth time. Yes, songwriter Paddy McAloon is undoubtedly truly gifted, and this the last great thing he did makes him better than ever...
Published 10 months ago by Rivermoving

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant start but that's it
Fantastoc opening track (Best jewel thief in the world) but after that it goes all identikit Prefab Sprout. One's reminded why bands are such a great idea for songwriters - they say when things arent up to scratch.
Published 9 months ago by Kludge


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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The maestro of County Durham is back, 7 Oct 2013
This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
"You surely are a truly gifted kid / But you're only as good as the last great thing you did." These famous words from the Prefab Sprout song "Moving the River" echo in my mind as I listen to the new album "Crimson/Red" for the umpteenth time. Yes, songwriter Paddy McAloon is undoubtedly truly gifted, and this the last great thing he did makes him better than ever before.

"Crimson/Red" is nothing short of a miracle. McAloon has fought with eye problems and hearing problems for several years which would have broken lesser men, but notwithstanding these obstacles he managed to rise above them all to create an album so full of energy, confidence and musical intelligence it's truly heartwarming. Just listen to such a sweet gem of a pop song that is "Billy", and all cynical doubts about the power of music are dissolved. Or listen to such a slick and elegant number as "The Best Jewel Thief In the World", and you realize that Paddy McAloon is performing at the top of his game here.

"Crimson/Red" is really a record that wasn't meant to be. For contractual reasons, McAloon had to quickly pick these ten songs and then managed to record them at hyperdrive speed: it took less than two months to complete the album. The songs were picked from his unreleased projects, some of them date from 1997 ("Grief Built the Taj Mahal", "The Old Magician"), others were written in 2011 ("Billy"). It's safe to say that "Crimson/Red" is a kind of "greatest hits" album culled from McAloon's famously vast archive of unreleased songs.

Because of his health problems, Paddy McAloon was forced to play all instruments himself on the album. And he certainly deserves credit for making the record sound lively and timeless. It's even more flabbergasting when one contemplates the fact that he still uses his old 1987 Atari computer to arrange the music. Of course, the sound of the album would have been enriched with the addition of his former band members, but this reviewer firmly believes it is a much better thing to hear these songs performed by Paddy himself, than not being able to hear them at all.

"Crimson/Red" is a record which builds on the past glories of Prefab Sprout, while at the same time opens a door to future releases. There's really nothing nostalgic about this record, but when I listen to it I feel a kind of nostalgia about what is yet to come. This record will undoubtedly prove that there is an audience for Prefab Sprout's music, and that Paddy McAloon should be regarded as one of the most important songwriters of today - in short, he is a national treasure.

Prefab Sprout is back. And Paddy McAloon has through force of will and sleight of hand given us a tantalizing glimpse of his songwriting treasures. He's simply the best jewel thief in the world.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The master of melodic, thoughtful, soulful, soaring pop music is back, 7 Oct 2013
By 
K. P. Tinsley - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
With their best album since the sublime Steve McQueen, Prefab Sprout are back with a bang, and the Old Magician himself, Paddy McAloon is on the toppest of top form. Bacharach and David, McCartney, Brian Wilson, Cole Porter - these are the standards by which you can measure Crimson/Red, and the combination of brilliantly witty and poignant lyrics, and melodic magnificence is here displayed in what Mr McAloon calls the 'strophic form' - magical choruses that lift the songs to new heights. This is one of those albums, Like Absent Friends by Divine Comedy, or Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole, where every track is a standout. In another review on here someone said he manages to make every song both immediately catchy and yet with something new to discover with each fresh hearing, and that is spot on. The List of Impossible Things is a yearningly emotional elegy, with lines like, "Sleeping on cold stone floors, engaged in some new noble cause; stretch out your hands to hold a grandeur that won't be controlled". The Old Magician brings tears to the eyes and Billy - well, I guarantee you'll be singing it around the house after two listens. This is unmissably good pop music.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond My Expectations, 11 Oct 2013
This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
I'll start by saying that I am a long term Sprouts fan and have eagerly awaited the release of this album. The downside of being a Sprouts fan is that you end up with high expectations. Given the quality of the songs that have gone before, I was highly sceptical about any early comparisons with Steve McQueen and Jordan the Comeback. I've had the album for the best part of a week now and have played it around half a dozen times.

I'll start with the not so good.

Firstly, the album only has 10 songs lasting about 40 minutes. Like any Sprout fan, we would actually want more! Secondly, there are aspects of the production that are not particularly strong. That hasn't caused me too much concern, except when I have tried to play the CD in my car, or listen to it with headphones. Even on high quality headphones, Paddy's voice does not stand apart from the music. In an open room, however, production issues don't cloud what is good about this album, and that is the songs. Third, and I only say this so as to use an exception to prove a point. 'List of Impossible Things' is the one song on the album that has me singing the lyrics of an older Prefab Sprout song along to it. That older song is Dandy of the Danube, one of the B side songs from the King of Rock and Roll single. It's not that the songs are even similar, there is just a hint of similarity. That, however, doesn't stop List of Impossible Things from being a pretty good tune, however. The point I was trying to make is that the other 9 songs don't sound like reworkings of anything that has gone before. Delivering a set of fresh tunes is a challenge for any artist.

Now The Good;

This is a damn fine set of songs and no filler at all on this album. Yes, the songs have that Prefab Sprout sound, but each song stands on its own, and there are some well crafted gems here.

The Best Jewel Thief in the World. This song is catchy. The first time I heard it I thought that it would grate on me because I don't like instantly catchy songs at all, and usually tire of them after 2 or 3 listens. Having now heard this quite a few times over the last week, I have found that it is a catchy tune that is also a grower.

List of Impossible Things. A fine tune, but for me the weakest track on the album. However, as someone who consumes music as a glutton consumes food, weak in terms of this album is still damned good.

Adolescence. Curious with it's retro Atari sound, this is a song that throws lost of stuff at it, so much so that it shouldn't work on paper. On first listen, it didn't really work for me. However, now I would call it one of the stand out tracks on the album.

Grief Built The Taj Mahal. This is the song that sounds least like anything that has gone before, Sproutwise. The curious jangling almost sounded unstructured on first listen, but after hearing it a few times, it is another well crafted piece of work.

The Devil Came A Calling. My personal favourite on the album. Unusually for a Sprouts track, it relies heavily on an acoustic guitar, but very cleverly done.

Billy. An absolute classic of overblown enthusaism. The most confident track on the album. This song is good and it knows it!

The Dreamer. Dreamy and Gentle. I love the way that Paddy sings 'Now I'm just a dreamer, emerging from a dream'. From the same school as 'Where the heart is', but better than that.

The Songs of Danny Galway. Like The Best Jewel Thief in the World, this should also be annoying after a few listens. It sounds like it should be the theme to a popular ITV program. Very uplifting.

The Old Magician. Lyrically very pleasing. One of the album's gems.

Mysterious. The one song on the album that has managed to maintain it's mystery and the least familiar to me after a week of listening. The out of tune harmonica sound that holds this tune together is the most obvious element of the song after a few listens, while the song behind it does not seek to be bold or confident, just beautiful.

All in all, this is a wonderful collection of stories in song. Crimson/red, and many other colours on the palette besides. I did not want to give this 5 stars as I did not believe that Paddy would be capable of delivering something that would match my overhyped expectations. Reinforcing hype is something I find distasteful. However, 5 stars it is. the strength of the songs more than makes up for what is lacking in the production.

Comparisons with Jordan are a little early. However, in a year's time, I strongly suspect that it will have that accolade deservedly. This album looks like a strong candidate to pass the test of time.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prefab Sprout - The Old Magician Returns, 7 Oct 2013
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
If there is such a thing as musical heaven then the announcement of a new album by Paddy McAloon is the very entry through the Pearly Gates. "Crimson/Red" is essentially the widely leaked "Devil came a calling" and even though the Prefab Sprout name is attached to it there is no sign of the band. This album again draws on songs from the huge McAloon musical vault that go back to the nineties, indeed the most recent on this album is some two years old. The resulting album is one that echoes his best work. It revisits the frameworks of prime era McAloon albeit sticking to the "songwriting knitting" and eschewing some of his more clever excesses (songs such as "One of the Broken" would undoubtedly be recognised as one the greatest ballads ever if it didn't have "God" narrating it). The upshot of this is a more straightforward approach on "Crimson/Red" that will delight anyone who loves Prefab Sprout with a passion and deeply admires one of the best songwriters this Island has ever produced.

All is well from the outset. Opener "The Best Jewel Thief in the World" starts with sirens and develops into one of those effortless pop gems that McAloon sings as if a week has barely passed since recording his masterpiece "Steve McQueen" in 1985. His voice is truly remarkable. Listen to the gorgeous and wistful "List of impossible things" where only a lyricist as gifted as him could fit in Abstract Expression into its word play. The bubbling "Adolescence" is jam packed with hooks and melody, and many will note the similarly between "Devil came a calling" with the urgent drive of "Faron Young" . In it McAloon has a tryst with Old Nick and wittily observes that " The Devil came a-calling, no brimstone fire and rain/In fact, I found him charming, articulate, urbane". A clear stand out on "Crimson/Red" is the harmonica driven "Billy" a song which sees McAloon at his joyous best. The excellent acoustic driven country sounding "Old Magician" tells of a fading talent and regrets that "death is a lousy disappearing act", while the concluding "Mysterious" is a lush gently rolling ballad. This is topped however by the longest song on the album the beautiful "The Dreamer" which will melt the hearts of those it touches. Finally the "Songs of Danny Galway" is plain great and the whole album wonderfully produced by that Scottish wizard of the mixing desk Calum Malcolm.

McAloon recently admitted in a detailed interview with the Scotsman that "Crimson/Red" is essentially a cherry pick from his long awaited unfinished projects such as "Earth - The story so far" accumulated over the last 15 years. It is a sort of greatest hits collection of unreleased material the oldest of which is 1997s dramatic "Grief built the Taj Mahal. Everyone is aware that a range of health problems not least severe tinnitus has in turn compounded McAloon's obsessive perfectionism. Whether the gap to the next Prefab Sprout album will again be a matter of years is a matter for conjecture. It is great to hear that McAloon's health has improved more recently and he is actively promoting this album. Music so badly needs this "Old Magician" particularly if he has more albums quite this good up his sleeve.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 8 Oct 2013
This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
If Paddy McAloon is "only as good as the last good thing he did" then he is very good indeed!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Album of the year, 7 Oct 2013
By 
Robert Hirst "Bob H" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: CRIMSON/RED [VINYL] (Vinyl)
This must be one of the greatest comeback albums of all time - this is the first genuinely 'new' album from PS since The Gunman from 2001, which while having some fine moments was not up there with the heady highs of Steve McQueen and Jordan and a disappointing way for PS to go out(Let's change the world with music was new, but at the same time old!) so it's an absolute joy to hear this - a true new Prefab Sprout masterpiece.
Paddy has had numerous well-publicised health issues in recent years, and it would be hard to blame him for stepping back from music completely, but he's still writing songs, singing, playing producing etc, and finally we have something to show for it.
This is what I would call an instant grower, ie it's instantly catchy but there are levels of meaning and emotion that take a few listens to absorb and the more I hear it the more I love it. The Old Magician for instance, great melody, catchy country-ish arrangement, but then start to take in the lyrics and you realise that this is really a song about growing old and cynical, the loss of youthful optimism and how death takes us all in the end, and possibly a metaphor for Paddy himself (is Wendy the magicians assistant - tired of being sawn in two?). The songs of Danny Galway is a tribute to Jimmy Webb, and the marvelous thing about it is that it is as good as anything Webb ever wrote, and when I hear it I feel like weeping, not because it is particularly sad, but because it is so perfect and beautiful, it's hard to believe one guy from County Durham wrote it, recorded it, played it and sang it in his own home studio.
I won't go in to each song as I could talk for a very long time but they are all brilliant, though my overall favourite is probably Billy (also the most recently written song).
Though it's probably unlikely, I'm hoping that this is the start of a new era of more regular new PS albums - Paddy sounds more optimistic and upbeat about releasing new stuff in recent interviews than he has for a long long time. There are even rumours that he may be talking to Thomas Dolby about working together again.....
My advice - buy it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who needs Thomas Dolby? Paddy's still producing doves., 8 Dec 2013
By 
C. J. Oxley (Leics UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
Of course I'm biased with Steve McQueen still my all time favourite album, and everything since being as good as contemporary music gets. This Prefab Sprout album stands respectably alongside everything else in Paddy's back catalogue. There's not a duff track on it and there is a good handful of standout songs. "Billy"s the perfect pop song: catchy, original and somehow familiar all at the same time. It's difficult to believe it hasn't been around for years. Just under the surface of these smooth and polished pop songs, there are mature themes of retrospection, grief and mortality, There's menace, humour and poignancy. As well as my own copy, I bought the CD for a friend who confessed that driving home and playing it for the first time, he'd had to pull over listening to The Old Magician. Without doubt or a near challenger, this is the best album of 2013. It has a slightly different feel to the production of earlier Prefab Sprout albums, not least since Paddy played every instrument on the whole album and its effectively a solo project. Who knows - Thomas Dolby might just have talked Paddy out of quite so much harmonica?!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 4 Dec 2013
By 
Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
I've been a fan of Prefab Sprout for many years but if I'm entirely honest their last few albums have been a little underwhelming. I'm delighted to say that "Crimson / Red" is absolutely outstanding.

For starters there's Paddy McAloon's wonderful voice - as rich as it ever was - and this time the songs are excellent too. From the opening "The Best Jewel Thief In The World" it doesn't put a foot wrong, and if I'm absolutely honest, although some may disagree with me here, for me this is the best Prefab Sprout album to date. Some may bemoan the absence of Wendy and the rest of the original band (thanked by Paddy in the sleeve notes) but personally I think this is excellent as it is.

Unless something comes along in the next couple of weeks that changes things, this is my favourite album of 2013 by some margin. A wonderful record.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning, 3 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Crimson/Red (Audio CD)
This album has an amazing combination of an old fashioned/romantic feel, together with a completely up to date feel..
I absolutely loved "Lets change the world with music" (the lost in time album) and was slightly unsure about it on the first listen - I thought it might be a bit "slight", but now I have listened a few times I must confess I just keep on playing it - its just a charming journey of emotion, musicianship, quality production and .... I could go on - The absolute stand out track for me is Adolescence - but they are all (without exception) lovely tracks, short-sweet and charming ! Enjoy..
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 1 Nov 2013
By 
D. Fenton (Lancashire. UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Crimson/Red (MP3 Download)
What a lovely surprise this was, its right up there with the best quality releases from Prefab Sprout. Lovely, lovely music that grows on you with a passion. All that you would hope for from Paddy, achingly lovely stuff. Congrats on such a great release. Please bring out more, its so very sad that releases are such a rarity. Although the quality and layering is astonishing.
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