“Made in Basing Street” – Producers

4 stars (out of 5)

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Producers - Made In Basing StreetIt’s a concept which isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever seen before.  We’ve had many supergroups in the past, but I can’t remember one which comprised members best known for their work in the studio (or one which took 6 years to make).  The Producers personnel are Lol Creme, Trevor Horn, guitarist Stephen Lipson and drummer Ash Soan and you can check their credentials online.  When I read about the concept I expected the album to be either full of self-indulgent muso noodlings or a set of good songs played very proficiently with outstanding production values.  I’m pleased to say it was much closer to the latter.

There isn’t a bad song on the album; they’re all good and some are even very good.  You can have a lot of fun trying to pick out the influences behind the songs as well (which makes you a musical trainspotter; join the club).  There are more musical ideas here than most performers can manage on half a dozen albums and the art of the production is to put those ideas together coherently without sounding like a bunch of musicians playing with all the toys simultaneously for the first time (or like the second Mansun album).

The opening song on the album, “Freeway”, sets the tone with a subtle synth wash and breathy vocal giving way to piledriver drums and a massive guitar riff to take the song into the first verse.  It’s a cruising song (no, really) which is much more in the mould of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” (particularly the drumming) than Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” and it kickstarts the album perfectly.  “Your Life” is a great example of the quality of the playing and production as it moves effortlessly between classic ballad and power ballad and features some very tasteful guitar throughout.  “Stay Elaine” is a folky, mainly acoustic take on the “stay tonight, it’s too late to go home theme” featuring some delicate finger-picked guitar, accordion and some very interesting Ash Soan percussion.  Again, all the elements gel perfectly.  “Barking up the Right Tree” is in a similar vein with a hint of Van Morrison’s “Bright Side of the Road” thrown in towards the end.

“Garden of Flowers” goes back to more upbeat territory and subverts the pop formula by beginning with a drum solo (interesting trivia question there, I guess) and going straight into a guitar solo, which feels like coming in halfway through the song.  It’s similar in feel to “Freeway” featuring guitar and drums to the fore throughout.  The closer, “You & I”, is a take on the “carpe diem” theme beginning with a delicate minor key guitar theme and building into a slightly off-centre power ballad.

There isn’t a bad track on the album and it rewards repeated listening because you won’t pick out everything on the first or second listen.  It’s absolutely crammed with great ideas and playing while using the standard songwriting themes (seduction, cruising on the freeway and nostalgia) that we all know and love.  It’s not an album that represents a musical revolution but if you love good quality songs and perfect playing and production, then you really should give this a listen.