Saturday, 16 June 2018

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Timeless Flight (1976)

All men are hungry....


Released in February 1976

Running time 41.40

Apparently recorded under swelteringly hot conditions, Steve Harley has stated that the general torpor of the heatwave had led to a certain tiredness and lack of energy from the band, hence the album’s slightly laid-back ambience. However, they were slower-paced, acoustic led songs in the first place, so the weather is only really a small percentage of the story.

For many, it is Harley's greatest album despite its slipping under the radar, hidden by the previous three offerings. This is what Harley has said about it in retrospect -

"Well, years ago I would have said "Timeless Flight" because it got the worst reviews. It's my precious boy, my favourite child. It was such a change for me and the critics weren't ready. It's like I heard Mick Jagger say about one of the Stones albums, it was his favourite because it was nobody else's! I never realised it was the favorite album of so many people. "Nothing is Sacred" is on there and when I started to play that live I sensed it was something they really wanted to hear. Now it's a real blinder and it meant a lot to a lot of people to hear it. And "Red is a Mean Mean Colour" is a really personal song for me. There's a lot of personal stuff in there. "All Men Are Hungry" is another I like to sing. It's a song people can relate to."


1. Red Is A Mean, Mean Colour
2. White White Dove
3. Understand
4. All Men Are Hungry
5. Black Or White
6. Everything Changes
7. Nothing Is Sacred
8. Don't Go, Don't Cry                                      

For me too, this is Harley’s last worthwhile album, and yes, it is possibly his best, in many respects. It is a collection of eight non-commercial, “serious”, often poetic, imagery-full and reflective songs. There is no “Come Up And See Me”, the great commercial success of the previous album, or even a “Mr Raffles”, that album’s lesser hit.

Harley’s perceived (and often real) arrogance had the music media queueing up too knock him down at the first signs of commercial and artistic failure. The decision to release the sprawling attempt to write a “Tumbling Down”-style anthem in “Black Or White” as a single was commercial suicide. It failed to make the UK top 50, this after a huge number one only a year previously in “Come Up And See Me”. The follow-up, the quirky, staccato, horn-driven and funky “White White Dove” failed to make the top 50 either. The vultures were circling. “Rebelmania” was well and truly over.

This was all a shame. The album actually did acceptably on the charts and contained, as I said earlier some good material. “Black Or White” was a “build-up”, verse and dramatic chorus, with cascading piano that I, personally have always liked. Typical affected Harley vocals on it too. “White White Dove” was upbeat and attractive, with some good jazzy bits and a killer chorus. “Understand” is a lyrical, sensitive song with some intriguing lines like “consider me lost in aspic I’d give in but that’s not my shtick..” and “Red Is A Mean, Mean Colour” is an addictive number,  with a great hook although its political imagery is all rather confusing. It was supposed to be a critique of communism, but apart from the chorus, I could never quite see it. “All Men Are Hungry” has a delicious melody, lovely guitar and alluring lyrics about sitting in a Stockholm cafe talking about “Papa” Hemingway. A most evocative song. With that sort of thing in mind, the beautiful “Nothing Is Sacred” has even more beguiling lyrics. Just get a load of this lot:-

“....We heard Phaedre speak of the Philistines of Paris
But she talked to herself like a parasite so we both struggled
I said: "Zizi Jeanmaire wouldn't take this and neither will we
"if they call me Napoleon again I'll be forced to let the lion free..

Ok Steve, if you say so.

It also has an addictive “ooh la la la..” chorus. Great song.

“Everything Changes” has a choppy, almost waltz-like but semi-funky rhythm and an extremely exaggerated vocal  from Harley. “Don’t Go, Don’t Cry” has a jaunty, even funkier, clavinet riff and is upbeat end to a much underrated album and one I have always rated.

Maybe the last word should go to Harley -

"...There were magic moments on Timeless Flight that I'd never experienced before. It wasn't the most commercial album ever following up the very commercial "Best Years of Our Lives". I understand that. But there you are...."


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