Many thanks, @iancpeacock for penning these words about the Sprouts' 2013 offering.
I must have first heard Prefab Sprout around 1984. I remember spending one weekend listening repeatedly to their debut single, Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone). Even today it still sounds like a breath of fresh air.
Their debut album, Swoon, with its sophisticated music and clever lyrics, became and remains a firm favourite. The follow up, Steve McQueen, was almost as good. A string of other albums followed up to 1997 when their (to my mind second best) album Andromeda Heights was released.
After that releases became more sporadic – 2001's disappointing The Gunmen and Other Stories, 2003's stunning Paddy McAloon solo album, I Trawl The Megahertz, and 2009's Let's Change The World With Music, which was previously unreleased but had been recorded in 1992 (and wore its Prince influences on its sleeve).
In June last year rumours appeared on Twitter of a new Prefab Sprout album. A link produced an album's worth of new songs which blew me away. They were finally released in October as Crimson/Red. Interviews with Paddy said that the songs were recently recorded and that the album was all his own work – sadly health problems prevented him recording with others.
The album suggested that Paddy had lost none of his gift for strong melodies and intriguing lyrics. The single The Best Jewel Thief In The World could be treated as a straightforward song about a jewel thief or could be about the “borrowing” which sometimes forms a part of great songwriting. At least two songs pay tribute to other songwriters - The Songs Of Danny Galway is about Jimmy Webb and Mysterious is about Dylan who “roared out of nowheresville” and was “cryptic, elusive, smart, mysterious from the start”.
The Old Magician reflects on the parallel decline of an act's popularity and the marriage between the magician and his assistant - “the tired act that no one loves” when “there was a time we produced doves”. Best of all for me is The Devil Came-A-Calling. Paddy is approached by the Devil - “no brimstone, fire or rain, in fact I found him charming, articulate, urbane” - who offers him 50 years of success for his immortal soul. He is held to the bargain although while “my memory is hazy, I'm sure that I declined”.
A great return to form and let's hope's there more music to come from Prefab Sprou