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HUGH CORNWELL ‘Beyond Elysian Fields’
Sanctuary Records (2005)

Hugh Cornwell

I liked the Stranglers. There, I’ve come clean. Not only were they musically stimulating, but they were just as bad tempered and grumpy as me. Not even being mistaken for Jet Black in a Birmingham pub put me off. However, the last few albums before Hugh Cornwell left in 1990 were rubbish. And his solo material continued in a rubbish vein for quite some time. However, recently, Hugh has been finding his songwriting touch, and 'Beyond Elysian Fields' continues his renaissance.

Slotting nicely into the pop/psychedelia idiom that the Stranglers occupied in their heyday, this displays a maturity that has taken a long time to emerge from his disgruntlement. Album opener, 'Land Of A 1000 Kisses' would have been a hit if any other old codger had released it, upbeat and catchy, but underpinned with a touch of melancholy. Shame they released the less instant 'Do Right Bayou' instead.

Hugh seems to be sneaking in homages to his past all over the place with melodies and bass riffs seeming eerily familiar. Elsewhere, 'Beauty On The Beach', is a strange mix of melody and atonal, but it somehow works, although I could have done without the Bob Dylan tribute '24/7', although at least it is amusing. However, the next track, 'Mr. Big' is my personal favourite, the one song that seems to best reflect the New Orleans environment that the album was recorded in. Dark and organ filled, hmm, where have we heard that before.

This is a thoughtful, sometimes inspired release, assisted by the production expertise of Tony Visconti. It’s a shame that people probably won’t give it a chance, as there are some excellent songs, well worth hearing.


Review by Stuart A Hamilton

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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