Tuesday, September 11, 2012

EBTG Week: Early '80s Solo Albums

I often try to imagine what it must have been like to be Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn, circa 1982 and 1983. These must have been heady times for the university students from Hull. They were both signed to the Cherry Red label. Thorn was in Marine Girls while simultaneously working on a mini solo album. Watt was busy recording with Robert Wyatt of Soft Machine and working on his own record. And, of course, by 1983 the two were recording songs together for what would become the first album from Everything But The Girl. That's jumping ahead a bit. Today, let's stick to their solo albums from the period.

Thorn's 'A Distant Shore' (1982) was reportedly recorded for a mere £138. It's a quick listen... eight songs clocking in at 23 minutes. For me, it's a mood piece best listened to in its entirety. In fact, I don't ever remember spinning it for just one song. Thorn plays guitar and sings. That's it. There is no other instrument or artist. You'll find no studio wizardry. In a word, it's beautiful. I love the album cover, too. It was drawn by Jane Fox of Marine Girls. I have spent quite a few hours admiring the art while listening to the record. Thorn wouldn't record another album as a solo artist until 2007.

Like 'A Distant Shore,' Watt's 'North Marine Drive' (1983) is also a sparse endeavor, but it's a bit closer to the jazz-infused work of very early EBTG. I really dig this album, but the sax solos are a bit jarring to me. Thirty years have passed, and Watt has yet to release a sophomore solo album. What a pity. This LP proves he's quite a good vocalist, too. Here is a single from each of their debut solo albums.

Tracey Thorn - Plain Sailing (mp3) from 'A Distant Shore'
Ben Watt - Some Things Don't Matter (mp3) from 'North Marine Drive'

Next Up: The only EBTG album that gets its own day

1 comment:

Echorich said...

North Marine Drive is a sort of blueprint for Eden. Mix in the confidence Tracey Thorn found on A Distant Shore and you get even closer to the beauty of Eden.