Swans Way: The Fugitive Kind – Expanded Edition (Cherry Red)
I first heard this album on its release, ahem, 28 years ago. I donât think Iâve heard it since, and, thatâs a huge shame.
Swans Way appeared in an alleged new wave of jazz artists spear-headed by Sade and lesser successfully by the wonderful Carmel and Blue Rondo. Trying to fit them into the âjazzâ category was always wrong, they had many influences but they sounded like, well, Swans Way.
The follow-up to their debut single, Theme From The Balcony (represented in its 12â version on this album), came in the shape of Soul Train which has always been one of my favourite all time tracks. Itâs a masterpiece in songwriting, slow, quick, slow, angst, passion and relief it sounds as fresh as it did in 1984, and, there lays the secret of this album â Swans Way were clearly very ahead of their time. The Fugitive Time was a critical success but a huge disappointment commercially.
For the young and/or uninitiated, Swan Way were a trio â Robert Shaw (vocals), Rick Jones (double bass), and, Maggie De Monde (percussion and vocals). The blokes were slick in their freshly made and pressed suits, and, their quiffs were something to behold. Maggie had an air of mystery and added a slightly Parisian feel to the sound of the group.
Hailing from Birmingham, they released one single on Exit International before being snapped up by Phonogram who either saw their vision or wanted to recoup some of their investment by releasing five singles from the album. That said, they are all worthy of such release.
Keeping It Strong could even have been single number 6. Powerful trumpet and saxophone over a strong chorus â it moments it could almost have appeared from ABCs repertoire circa The Lexicon Of Love (and look at how successful that was!). Backed by violin, viola and cello, as is much of the album, this was a huge hit screaming to get out. Possibly.
Not only does Club Secrets boast the line âthe fugitive kindâ, but it also claims âIâve got youâ â quite ironic as the song grips you and wonât let go. The album has clearly been remastered and sounds superb for it. Maggieâs dreamlike vocals are the start to In Trance, and, Robertâs sultry tones soon follow. He had quite a vocal range â you can feel the power and commitment in every breath, living and breathing every note of the song. Painting a picture in your mind. Stunning.
You know when you wake up in a morning with a song in your head? For the past week itâs been Je Jouie. It wonât go away. Iâm becoming obsessed. The strings remind me of a train gathering pace slowly, the production on this track isnât the best, but, thatâs overshadowed by the performance of the song. Sounding as though it could appear in a film soundtrack which is rather fitting as, if Swans Way were ever to write a Bond theme, it would have been The Blade. Thereâs a full brass section on here, something that they took with them for live appearances, and, Iâm sure John Barry would have been proud of this track. With a 60s styled vocal backing I can see Daniel Craig jumping across buildings and along scaffold with this playing in the background.
The first of two more of the albums singles is The Anchor. Really, why werenât these songs hits? A very commercial singalong chorus. âI shouldnât cry for him, but itâs not easy to stop the tearsâ. A Martin Fry esque vocal at times. Itâs interesting to see that the album also has three producers â John L Walters, Mark Freegard and Mike Thorne, which gives a varied appeal to the album. Iâm pretty sure that Mike worked with Marc Almond, and, his treatment of When We The Wild calls makes it an anthemic song. You could quite easily imagine a crowd singing along to this pacey number at a packed arena or festival.
Stay brings the speed right back down. No additional musicians on this track â just double bass and percussion. Itâs a plea, and you can feel the pain and emotional in every sinew of Shawâs body. His voice was very powerful â a really emotive singer who moves you with every sound.
The final track (of the original album) is Illuminations. Again a slower number, but, one that keeps going around in your head. Maggieâs angelesque vocals are here again. Itâs a sexy song. âFeeling total pleasureâ. Quite.
There are also a few additional tracks on the album in extended and 12â versions which really do add to the album. Soul Train in particular is like a completely different track for the first three and a half minutes. If I was to be super critical, Iâd have loved to have seen their cover of Gloomy Sunday on here â the b-side of Soul Train was marvellous. I was also slightly disappointed that the promise of a live version of Gershwinâs Summertime also seems to have been lost.
All in all? A classic. If only it had been released three decades later, it may have received far more commercial success. Iâd like to think that this re-release would do that, but, we live in a harsh world.
Buy this album, and savour something you may well have missed out on.
All words Paul Scott-Bates. Paul’s website (where this first appeared) is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.