Canadian pop heroes Dany Laj And The Looks have returned and the follow up to their insanely catchy single ‘Don’t Keep Me Guessing’ is a similarly infectious piece of retro pop.
After leaving Yes in 1979 following the tour for their ‘Tormato’ album, Jon Anderson barely rested. Between 1980 and 1982, he split most of his creative time between his own solo projects and collaborations with Greek keyboard virtuoso Vangelis, which brought the vocalist some UK chart success with the commercial new age/synth pop singles ‘I Hear You Now’ and the much-loved ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’. By the summer of 1981 and with the second Jon & Vangelis album ‘The Friends of Mt. Cairo’ having barely hit record shop shelves, Anderson was back in the studio working on the material that was soon to become his third LP ‘Animation’.
Upon release in June 1982, ‘Animation’ was a cult hit among fans, but not especially a commercial success. It marked the first time since the 1960s that Anderson failed to break the top 40 of the UK albums chart, and yielded no hit singles – which might seem weird considering his recent success with Vangelis – but, in all fairness, ‘Animation’ is a really complex animal. On the surface, it’s shiny pop oriented sound and extensive use of the technologies of the era make it appear as if it should’ve been much better received, but closer inspection reveals a sometimes challenging album that often delights in being busy, sometimes for the sake of it, and very occasionally at the expense of obvious hooks. However, it’s one of those albums which, with enough time invested, will eventually present a lot of brilliant material. Some of it is about as singalong as the more excessive bits of ‘Topographic Oceans’, but as is often the case with solo Jon, there’s far more at stake cheeky pop tune.
After a run of synth pop hits, Howard Jones took a musical detour. All artists grow and change, but the bulk of the material on his fifth album ‘In The Running’ (originally released in 1992) presented Jones in a more introspective light. Its ten songs tackled heavyweight subjects like pent up aggression (‘Gun Turned On The World’), mental illness (the self-explanatory ‘The Voices Are Back’) and the need for forgiveness (‘One Last Try’). Musically, his trademark synth pop style was dropped in favour of more of an adult AOR sound, sometimes much closer to Bruce Hornsby, and unfortunately, the UK radio stations seemed less than convinced. The album didn’t yield any massive hits and it subsequently became overlooked by all but the biggest fans.
By the early 2000s, it was much easier to find a copy of ‘In The Running’ from a US cut out bin than anywhere in the UK. A 2012 reissue coupled the album with ‘One To One’ and ‘Cross That Line’ and associated extras, but aside from a cover of Donald Fagen’s ‘IGY’ (released as a single in ’93) it didn’t offer much by way of ‘Running’ era extras. With that in mind, a massive reissue coupling the original album with a wealth of extra period material was something of a necessity. This four disc set from Cherry Red (issued in April 2021) aims to be the last word for ‘In The Running’, since it features a truckload of remixes and extra goodies alongside a DVD where Howard reflects on a much underrated work.
Unless you happen to be from Ontario, or perhaps have an unhealthy obsession with Transatlantic power pop, there’s a good chance the name Dany Laj will not mean much to you. With his band The Looks, Dany has been cranking out quirky pop-rock sounds since 2016, but his recorded output goes back even further with a (now rare) solo EP from 2010.
Those with a keen ear for underground pop music will already be aware of The 1957 Tail-Fin Fiasco. The Essex based musical duo featuring vocalists/multi instrumentalists Malcolm Moore and David Myers first appeared on the power pop scene with their ‘Private Jet Flashback’ album in 2013, and armed with a quirky sense of humour and a boundless love of Steely Dan, they quickly marked themselves out as champions of a retro style. Although further releases occasionally included a few rockier moments alongside weird nods to tangos and lounge music, the band’s love of all things brilliantly kitschy held firm.