Monday, October 5, 2015

Mike + the Mechanics – Mike + the Mechanics

Today (October 5th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of the self-title debut album from Mike + the Mechanics. The 1985 release hit number 26 on the US Billboard Album chart with a fifty-three week long run on the chart. Around the globe, it hit number 78 in the UK, number 36 in Australia, number 10 in Canada, and number 9 in Germany.

The roster of the band was made up of Mike Rutherford (of Genesis) on bass, Paul Carrack (of Squeeze), Paul Young (of Sad Café) and John Kirby on vocals, Adrian Lee on keyboards, and Peter Van Hooke on drums.

Side one starts with “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)”. As the first single, it raced to number 39 in the Netherlands, number 23 in Australia, number 21 in Ireland and the UK, number 8 in Canada and Germany, and number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The lyrics tell of a space traveler who is light years from home, trying to get a message back to his wife and children back on Earth. I have always found this song haunting, with the repeated “…can you hear me…can you hear me running…” chorus and the cosmic synth hooks. It is six plus minutes of galactic goodness.

“All I Need Is a Miracle”, the second single, rose to number 53 in the UK, number 35 in Belgium, number 31 in New Zealand, number 26 in Germany, number 24 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 10 in Canada, number 8 in Australia, number 7 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 6 on the US Billboard Rock chart, number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 in Ireland. The song is a ball of positive energy, and I can’t help but feel uplifted and inspired when I hear it. By the time it hits the first chorus, I am singing right along with Mr. Young.

The B-side to the first single was “Par Avion”. The slow synths and the steady percussion are hypnotizing and soothing.

With its rapid rhythms, “Hanging By a Thread” caught me off-guard, shocking me instantly back to consciousness after the previous track. The mood quickly changes to one of anxiousness. If this were back in the days of vinyl, I would be quickly flipping it over to continue the journey.

Side two starts with “I Get the Feeling”, a big and brassy pop number. It quickly jumped to my top spot of deep-tracks from this album.

“Take the Reins” gives off a Who vibe; the vocals remind me of the 80’s offerings from Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.

Time to take things down a notch with the next track. “You Are the One” was the B-side to the second single. Rutherford was clearly channeling his early days of Genesis when he wrote this progressive rock inspired track.

“A Call to Arms”, the B-side to the third single, started out as a piece from a Genesis studio session that Rutherford brought to his new group. The percussion gives it a very industrial sound, like big machines and presses pounding out product in perfect precision.

The closing track “Taken In” was also the third single; it reached number 39 in Canada, number 32 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 7 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. This mid-tempo tune was another radio favorite of mine in early 1986. It has a swaying delivery with a smooth jazz infusion. A nice way to close the record on a slightly different flavor.

Being a pop radio and MTV junkie, of course I knew the three singles from this debut album. This review, however, was my first time listening to all of Mike + the Mechanics as a whole. It is definitely one I’d like to revisit again real soon.

1 comment:

HERC said...

The only reasonable explanation I can think of as to why I didn't buy Mike + the Mechanics self-titled album in 1985 is because my girlfriend bought it first. I loved "Silent Running" from the first time I heard it on the radio. It's another one of those spacey sounding songs I'm a sucker for plus the movie of the same name from 1972 is one of my favorites.

As I recall, the rest of the album was not as thrilling as that song but I'd say I liked it as a whole though it has been at least 25 years since I listened to it. Thought there were a couple remixes from the album but Discogs tells me that there was just the one I have for "All I Need Is A Miracle" which is given an odd stripped down mix instead of the usual effects laden remix that was standard issue at the time.

It was Paul Young's vocals (different Paul Young than the "Come Back And Stay" guy) on that track that led me back to his band Sad Café, a sadly underappreciated soft rock outfit.