Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Roman Holliday - EP / Cookin' on the Roof

In the early 1980’s, the British band Roman Holliday formed. Combining a mixture of pop and swing, they brought a lot of fun to the music scene. Before their first full album was released in 1983, the group put out a five song EP.

I was first exposed to Roman Holliday and a couple of these songs by listening to local college radio during my senior year of high school. The EP was available at the local record store for $3.99, so I quickly added it to my vinyl collection.

The first side opens with “Stand By”. It was the first single released by the group; it reached number 61 in the UK and number 54 on the US charts. The opening is bouncy and gets my foot moving within seconds, thanks to the aforementioned swing elements. I was an instant fan after hearing this one song. I give it five stars.

Next up is “Motor Mania”, the third single from the group. It went to #40 in the UK. The multiple part harmony on the opening (by singers Steve Lambert and Brian Bonhomme) is kind of cool. This one harkens back to all those odes to cars from the 60’s, but with a 40’s big band sound to it. It is also a five-star track in my book.

The side concludes with “I.O.U.”, a song about a guy who is constantly running short on cash. But, as with their other songs, Roman Holliday presents it in an up-tempo way so you don’t feel so bad for the guy.

The second side of this EP advises “Don’t Try to Stop It”. This second single by the group did better in the UK (#14) than it did in the US (#68). You can really pick out Jon Durno’s thumping bass on this one. And the vocals are smooth.

The last song on the record is “Beat My Time”. It was originally released as the B-side to the “Don’t Try to Stop It” single.

Four out of five of these songs would show up a little later on Roman Holliday’s first full-length album Cookin’ on the Roof. This one didn't show up in my local record store (and I really didn't seek it out since I had the EP). It took another twenty seven years before I would come across the full release via digital downloads, but it was well worth the wait.

Side one of the full album starts with “Don’t Try to Stop It”. Then “Motor Mania” and “I.O.U” follow.

“Jive Dive” has a bit of a jazzy feel to it and makes me think fondly of the Manhattan Transfer (“Java Jive”). John Eacott on trumpet and Rob Lambert on saxophone are showcased in this one.

“Midnight Bus” talks about the perils of drinking too much and having to ride the bus home (rather than drive drunk). Of course, when you combine drinking and the word “bus”, something else comes to mind as well. LOL

Side closes with the title track “Cookin’ on the Roof”. Adrian York really works those 88-keys on this song.

“Stand By” opens side two. “No Ball Games” is next.

“Fur N’ High Heels” is a song about dating a high class gal. “Serious Situation” slows things down a little with a piano ballad opening and then brings in the rest of the band. The final track on the album is “One More Jilt”.

I strongly recommend Roman Holliday and these albums to anyone who likes the combo of rock and swing. This band had that style down perfectly. The songs might be a little hard to come by, but they’re worth the hunt.

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