Following on from the recent re-issue of the magnificent "Born Sandy Devotional "the next in line is my own particular favourite "Calenture", though they are also releasing "In The Pines" on the same day. Like The BSD release this will have an expansive booklet and extra tracks. Like that, it's contentious as to how imperative these extraneous items are. The booklet , if it follows the same remit, will be a collection of hand written notes detailing the genesis and progression of the albums songs and while interesting leave you wanting a more empirical and authoritative version of the albums conception and the themes surrounding it. The extra tracks are usually very rough demos and though again interesting you are highly unlikely to return to them very often. The previously un-released tracks if indeed there are any may contain a hidden gem but don't hold your breath.
What is in no doubt what so ever is the brilliance of the Calenture album itself? Calenture is defined on the albums cover as a "tropical delirium that afflicts sailors who imagine the sea to be green fields "and is a fitting title for music as lush and transcendental as this. Beautifully produced by Gil Norton and sung with admirable poise and gusto by the late great David McComb this is an inspirational set of songs saturated with opulent romanticism and defiant melancholy.
The songs are mini-epics, awash with strings, augmented by pedal steel, melodic guitar phrases and plunging bass lines. Opener "Bury Me Deep In Love" was used for Harold and Madges wedding in "Neighbours" which is hardly a fair reflection of it's casual magnificence though top marks for taste to who ever chose it. Lyrically it sees McComb at his peak. On "Trick Of The Light" he tells us "The rim of her mouth was golden /her eyes were just desert sands" to a gorgeous tippling melody. "Hometown Farewell Kiss" kicks in with a cascade of pedal steel and keyboards before McComb intones resplendently "My eyes are filled with light /my feet can't touch the ground/from up here I can the sight/of my home town city burning down ". "Kellys Blues" opens with wonderful; chiming Appalachian guitars and flexes brawny bass lines. The orchestra comes more to the fore on the splendid "Blinder by the Hour" where his "Lips for food/my skin for sheets/my eyes for and my blood for heat /my two white arms for an overcoat" lyric is amongst the best love song lyrics I've ever heard.
The tone turns darker for "Jerdacuttup Man", a lamentation for an unfortunate soul who "Once lost in business/once lost in love" , was mummified and buried and now lies "Under glass in the British Museum "Jill Birt takes the lead for the joyous swagger of "Holy Water" and "Vagabond Holes" is a more muscular straight up rock track. "Open For You" is another plangent attractively performed number with Jill Birts backing vocals more to the fore .The one slightly ponderous song on the album is "Unmade Love" with its slightly stilted bass motif but finally there is the truly sublime "Save What You Can" about two lovers parting at New Year and it is almost unceasingly moving with an exquisite piano melody.
Where BSD seemed obsessed with the wide screen landscape of their native Australia Calenture seems more pre-occupied with the wide screen scope of the heart, the trials and tribulations that we go through in the name of that rather over used four letter word. It may not introduce us to a new pop vision or break any new ground but as a straight up rock/pop album you will not find better. Originally released in1987 its one of that decades outstanding albums. Buy it and bury yourself deep in loves enveloping vale and wallow.