Sorrows: Love Too Late…The Real Album
New version of the ill-fated second album by New York new wave pop band Sorrows. Originally it was released in 1981 and produced by Shel Talmy, who had helmed important mid-1960s sides for The Kinks, The Who and many others. Unfortunately it was not the ideal match it might have appeared on first sight…Ian Canty hears the real deal about Sorrows…
New York City’s own Sorrows (n.b. no “The”, unlike the Coventry 60s band with the same name) had their roots in the early 1970s trailblazing power pop act The Poppees. That outfit’s guitarist/singer Arthur Alexander and drummer Jett Harris slotted over into the initial Sorrows line up. Alexander was joined in the vocal front line by newcomers Joey Cola on guitar and bassist Ricky Street. They hit the Big Apple’s alternative nightspots in 1977 with gusto, building up a strong following at Max’s and CBGBs. In 1979 they were signed up by Pavilion/Epic, part of the CBS group. Despite their debut album Teenage Heartbreaker arriving just when the US was beginning to embrace new wave, the LP sales did not reflect critical reaction or the quality of the set.
Pavilion did let the band work on a follow up in the UK with a big name producer, but alas this was to be anything but the perfect match. On the face of it Shel Talmy must have seemed like a good choice. Born in Chicago, he had settled in London and became known for his mid-1960s work with The Kinks and The Who. Shel achieved success later in the decade with The Easybeats and psych contenders The Creation, but as the decade wore on, his star had waned. By 1980 his production work had slowed down to a trickle and the punk era, that may have appeared purpose built for his basic, fiery sound, just yielded The Damned single Stretcher Case Baby.
So working with Sorrows no doubt offered him the opportunity to get back in the game, as well as the band perhaps seeing the benefit of being considered in the same breath as Talmy’s most celebrated charges. Sorrows flew into London with high hopes, but it all went drastically wrong pretty quickly. Talmy harked back to his days using session men instead of band members like he did with The Who on I Can’t Explain. He replaced the drummer with a session man and singers were drafted in to sing the band’s vocal parts. On top of all that, the then-current fad for synthesisers was lathered over the top, taking away in one fell swoop one of Sorrows’ core strengths.
All these unnecessary add-ons came to naught as the resulting record, Love Too Late, pleased neither the group’s original supporters nor pop fans in general. The bad reaction to the LP was enough to do for the band eventually. But all is not lost, because Sorrows are back in 2021 to right this wrong. Alexander, Cola and Street return here with new drummer Luis Herrera behind the traps and they are in determined mood, eager to let the listener hear Love Too Late just as it was really meant to sound.
The fresh blast of Christabelle gets things underway, as Sorrows set out their stall by moving lithely with power and pure energy. Thrilling and fast but above all prizing a memorable melody, this is just the kind of breezy pop music that is so well suited for radio play, ironically where it is shockingly underrepresented today. The title track follows next, guitar jangle to the front and with a shuffling rhythm, white-hot new wave pop that easily worms itself into the listener’s consciousness. Crying Time changes tack, slotting easily into smooth reggae skank. This is a fun number that has the advantage of demonstrating that Sorrows are much more than a one trick pony.
There’s a touch of The Beatles being given extra crunch date about Rita (not the meter maid…) and the chilled cool to the guitar here really makes it work. It swings and you could easily see this in the UK charts back in 1981, after all Squeeze and Elvis Costello were doing a similar line then, catchy songs with poise and purpose. Next we have a firecracker in Play This Song (On The Radio), a demand that on this evidence should be heeded asap. Starting in acapella to emphasis the vocal harmonies Talmy sought to throw away, So Much Love is the dream setting of attitude, a catchy tune and pure rhythmic hammer. This is pop music like it really should be more often.
Taking things at a touch more relaxed pace, Breaking My Heart (Over You) is both dramatic and hazy. A song of commitment, subsequent loss and then resolving itself because that the whole feeling is in itself of no real use. A very clever piece that feels truly epic at the end, with the guesting APU Gospel Choir’s vocals really soaring. This brings us to what must have caused a certain sense of deja vu for Shel Talmy on the original album, a cover of The Kinks’ Tired Of Waiting For You. Sorrows take the Ray Davies song and add a raucous edge with plenty of thump, even bunging in a bit of You Really Got Me’s riff into the break.
What I Used To Know rumbles into view with guitars blazing and a nicely fussy bass kicking things along well, and It’s Not Love Anymore starts edgy and develops into a real pop pounder. Set closer Street Punk Blues is the only brand new effort on Love Too Late…The Real Album and finds the band powering through with heads-down unstoppable momentum. This provides a neat end-piece to a fine collection.
Love Too Late…The Real Album is as far from a group re-treading former glories as it is possible to be. Sorrows strip things right back to the energy of the band in its youth and they clearly appear to be on a mission to reclaim the LP’s songs from the duff recording techniques fostered on it in 1981. Though it may cause one to think it was a shame that they never got to cut the album that they wanted back then and what a live act they no doubt were in their original incarnation, the realisation that they are still capable of this mighty noise all these years on in 2021 is a warming thought indeed. As we go back to live gigs finally, what an excellent proposition it would be to see Sorrows cracking out the brilliant tunes on this record on stage now. Here’s hoping as Love Too Late…The Real Album is a blinding set of streamlined heavy pop finery.
Sorrows are on Facebook here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here