Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Paul Young - No Parlez

English born singer and musician Paul Young was the front man for a number of short-lived bands (Kat Kool & the Kool Cats, Streetband, and Q-Tips) before going it alone and becoming a huge teen idol. His solo debut No Parlez was released thirty years ago tomorrow (July 18th) back in 1983. It charted at number 79 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 16 in France, number 4 in Austria, number 3 in New Zealand and Norway, and number 1 in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Side one opens with “Come Back and Stay”, a song first recorded in 1981 by its writer Jack Lee. An American songwriter, Lee recorded with the Los Angeles band the Nerves and wrote such songs as “Hanging on the Telephone” (later covered by Blondie) and “You Are My Lover” for Suzi Quatro. As the fourth single from this album, Young’s version went to number 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 16 in Sweden, number 5 in France, number 4 in the UK, number 3 in Ireland and Norway, number 2 in the Netherlands, and number 1 in Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland. The combination of the percussion, the synths, the guitars and the vocal harmonies are a perfect pop storm, making this one a favorite of mine from that year.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” was first written and recoded by Joy Division in 1979. Young’s cover, which charted at number 40 in Germany and number 9 in New Zealand, has a very different vibe than the original. I do not find it as nearly as haunting, but it does add a warmer and intimate touch.

Marvin Gaye co-wrote and recorded “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)” in 1962. Young released his cover as a single where it topped out at number 1 in the UK for three weeks. It also charted at number 70 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 48 in the Netherlands, number 19 in Germany, number 8 in Sweden, number 4 in New Zealand and number 1 in Ireland. I like how the synths drip-drop back and forth in the audio channels; they set up a rainy evening mood which perfectly fits this melancholy song.

“Ku-Ku Kurama” features a funky groove and scatting backing vocals. Young uses a voice modifier to give his singing a totally different direction.

The slinky “No Parlez”, written by British experimental musician Anthony Moore, continues the bass-centric rhythms.

Side two starts with “Love of the Common People”, a cover of the 1967 folk song first recorded by the Four Preps. Its lyrics tell of the poor and unemployed. Young’s version, complete with a Calypso tempo, was released as a single twice. The first time in 1982 failed to garner much notice. Upon re-release in 1983, it went to number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 10 in New Zealand, number 5 in Germany, number 3 in Austria and Switzerland, number 2 in the UK, and number 1 in Ireland and the Netherlands.

“Oh Women”, also written by Jack Lee, is an up-tempo dance track about the alluring, fairer sex.

“Iron Out the Rough Spots”, a cover of a Booker T. Jones song recorded by Don Covay in 1966, was released as the first single in 1982 but failed to generate any chart action. I like the variety of musical layers to it, from heavy percussion to Kaliope horns. And Young really channels that bluesy style well.

Things slow down with the fragile ballad of the “Broken Man”.

“Tender Trap” brings to my mind 60’s espionage musically, all the way down to the horns.

The smoking dance song “Sex”, one final Jack Lee tune, closes out the album.

The original CD release of the album replaced a number of tracks with extended mixes and added one additional tune “Behind Your Smile”. For the twenty-fifth anniversary in 2008, another CD release was done that restored most of the original tracks back to their vinyl format and included a bonus CD of remixes, demos and live cuts.

My first impression of No Parlez as a whole is that it was a good solo debut for Paul Young. There are a number of tracks here that I definitely would like to pick up soon as they fit right into that early 80’s music that I enjoy.

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