Kevin Coyne: Blame It On The Night – album review
Kevin Coyne – Blame It On The Night (Turpentine Records)
Great lost 1974 Kevin Coyne LP finally surfaces on CD – Frank Bangay rejoices at the deluxe treatment and bonus tracks.
In the early 1990s Kevin Coyne’s Virgin back catalogue was reissued on CD but for some reason Blame It On The Night was forgotten. So it’s great that Turpentine Records have now made it available on CD.
Originally released in 1974 and sandwiched between Kevin’s Virgin debut Marjory Razor Blade and the hard rock sounds of 1975’s Matching Head And Feet, Blame It On The Night became something of a lost album. It’s true that at the time some reviewers preferred the more conventional rock settings of Matching… and in particular Kevin’s next album, Heartburn. Now is the time for Blame It On The Night to be properly appreciated.
Featuring a band led by guitarist Gordon Smith and some tracks with Kevin solo, this record shows him going deeper into the tangles that he sang about on the Case History track My Message To The People. Opener River Of Sin is a song about catholic guilt. Driven along by slide guitar and saxophone it’s said to have been an influence on John Lydon who would himself address the issue of Catholic guilt with PIL on Religion. Next track – the acoustic Sign Of The Times – is a disorientating experience on which Coyne sings “my hands are clean, they are never dirty, I wear something and it hurts me”. We then bounce into I Believe In Love, an upbeat love song that was released as a single. After this we are back to the acoustic ramblings of the disorientating Don’t Delude Me.
The title track is an acoustic song, atmpospherically enhanced by a string accompaniment, whereas next song Poor Swine shows compassion for the boss of a working mine in which seven miners die. Heartbroken, he nevertheless has to face the wrath of the workers and friends and family of the bereaved. On Light Up Your Little Light Kevin sings “your past history is well known to everyone in this particular home” referring, perhaps, to a psychiatric hospital with which he was familiar. Towards the end of the record comes the disturbing Witch, featuring some of Coyne’s fine Spanish guitar playing. Right On Her Side is more upbeat – about a woman who’s “never been known to swear, what would she do if a man was there” only for Kevin to sing later in the song “you never see the wheels, the life scars that don’t heal”.
A striking aspect to this album is how upbeat it is. His band has an organic feel and there’s real warmth to the playing. They certainly could rock out in places but this contrasts really well with the rich acoustic tones. There is also an authentic blues feel such as the harmonica-driven Take A Train. Kevin liked to look beyond the neatly cut lawns of suburbia and to get beneath the masks we wear in an attempt to be “normal”. He does that really well here and I rate Blame It On The Night as one of his best albums.
The bonus tracks are Queen Queenie Caroline (B side to I Believe In Love) and there are two other versions of Poor Swine, the second from a free 1974 concert in Hyde Park. The closing track is a version of Marjory Razor Blade, also from the same concert. These two tracks show just how powerful Kevin was as a live performer.
Disc Two is entitled River Of Sin – the original working title for Blame It On The Night. This includes alternate versions of River Of Sin and Wanting You Is Not Easy, which contain different lyrics to the album versions. There is a another (slower) version of Poor Swine and a take of I Believe In Love without the female backing singers. Another version of Witch is even more disturbing than the album version. Of the bonus tracks Another Drink is a brass driven rocker and Heart And Soul is a real stand-out track with an addictive chorus. Stoke Your Oven And Light The Fire lasts for twelve minutes and is a fitting climax to the bonus disc.
Let’s welcome Blame It On The Night to the world of CD.
To buy this album visit Turpentine Records
Kevin Coyne fansite here.
All words by Frank Bangay. More writing by frank on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.