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ITALIAN IMPORT ON THE AREA PIRATA.... SECRET AFFAIR PLAYED A LEADING ROLE IN THE MOD REVIVAL SCENE OF 1979 AND WENT ON TO RELEASE THREE SUCCESSFUL ALBUMS ON THEIR OWN LABEL I-SPY RECORDS, MARKETED AND DISTRIBUTED BY ARISTA RECORDS. THEY ARE MOST REMEMBERED FOR THEIR HIT SINGLE TIME FOR ACTION WHICH SOLD OVER 250,000 COPIES IN THE UK ALONE, FOLLOWED BY HIT SINGLES LET YOUR HEART DANCE, MY WORLD AND SOUND OF CONFUSION (WITH 9 APPEARANCES ON TOP OF THE POPS AND PRESTIGIOUS TV SHOWS SUCH AS THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST AMONGST OTHERS). SECRET AFFAIR CONTINUES TO TOUR ACROSS UK, EUROPE AND ASIA WITH A NEW 8 PIECE LINE UP FEATURING THE FOUNDER MEMBERS AND SONGWRITERS IAN PAGE & DAVE CAIRNS. FIRST STUDIO ALBUM BY SECRET AFFAIR IN OVER 30 YEARS. RELEASED ON THEIR ORIGINAL ICONIC LABEL, I-SPY RECORDS. TRACK LISTING ...1. SOHO DREAMS 2. TURN ME ON 3. WALK AWAY 4. SOUL OF THE CITY 5. I DON'T NEED NO DOCTOR 6. LAND OF HOPE 7. LOVE'S UNKIND 8. LOTUS DREAM 9. ALL THE RAGE 10. IN OUR TIME 11. RIDE
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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.
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.
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I went all the way from (Memphis)Sweden
to see Mott the hoople's reunion in November
and before my trip i happened to see that
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