Rea-esque (Cafe Jacques, Easy Street, City Boy, The Movies)

Mention of Chris Rea on progressiveears recently led to a flow a stimulating conversation. Here are some of the highlights:

I’m familiar with Chris Rea‘s first four albums, in which the music tends to coast along on Rea’s cool, laidback vibe, in lieu of melodic hooks. Initially, I only liked four songs off Whatever Happened to Benny Santini (“Fires of Spring”, “Because of You”, “Three Angels” and “Fool If You Think It’s Over”) but gradually the humbler numbers sunk in, like “Dancing With Charlie”. The key to his charm seems to be in his tasteful* arrangements.

Another British act from that same time period with a very similar sound to Rea, yet with more standout hooks and artful arrangements, was Cafe Jacques, one of my favorite unknowns of the late 70’s:
Cafe Jacques

*If anyone wants to know exactly what I mean by “tasteful”, I submit this definition:
http://newstar.rinet.ru/music/steely.htm#Go

‘everyday’ said: “Great band [Cafe Jacques] – ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ is one of my fav tracks. Interesting to look at the MySpace entry and their friends – several of my other fav bands from that era – City Boy, The Movies, Easy Street. “

Wow, you know about Easy Street? I’ve only encountered one other person on any of the music forums who’s ever even heard of them. Their track “I’d Been Lovin’ You” somehow managed to crack the Cash Box Top 100 in the Summer of 1976, which I find unbelievable since Capricorn (mystified by how Easy Street ended up on that label) didn’t seem to know how to promote those “short haired English pretty boys.” In fact, I own the entire 1976 volume of Rolling Stone (save for the Jackson Brown issue), plus every issue of Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press from that mighty year, yet I see no mention of Easy Street in any of those issues whatsoever. I would have never even known about Easy Street had I not seen a mention of their name in a blurb on Landscape (the next band for drummer Richard Burgess) in The Trouser Press Guide to New Wave Records.

Bands like Easy Street, Cafe Jacques, The Movies, City Boy, Deaf School, etc make a good argument for the existence of fresh, young talent that was emerging outside the New Wave, circa 1976-77. There’s even a review of Cafe JacquesRound the Back LP in Record Mirror from late 1977, which wryly noted how the “monopoly of attention given to up and coming bands” was indeed allotted to the post-Pistols horde. Such was the haze of the pre-internet age.

‘everyday’ said: “I have the Easy Street album in front of me as I type this – can’t have played it for 20 years! I certainly remember ‘Feels Like heaven’ and ‘Lazy Dog Shandy’. The first Landscape album was superb – very experimental for its day. I saw them in Hull when they were touring that LP. ‘Japan’ was a superb track. The Movies did some excellent work too. They were originally Joan Armatrading‘s backing band I believe. Jon Cole has a website from where you can download tracks for free once you get a password. Google Jon Cole and Movies to find it. Never saw City Boy but have all their albums including a CDR of the never-released outside Sweden ‘It’s Personal’. Of course Mike Slammer went on to form Streets with Steve Walsh.”

The eponymous Easy Street is one of my top 5 all-time albums from one of my top 3 favorite years in music, 1976. I got the cover spread out on the wall right behind me.

I never got my hands on the first Landscape LP, but I do have the fusiony “Worker’s Playtime” 7″ which preceded it. From the Tea Rooms of Mars.. is definitely one of the highlights of the New Romantic movement, along with some ultra cool videos featuring the band in full Romo garb along with the eye-fetching Barbie Wilde.

The Movies evolved out of the 1973 symphonic prog one-shot Public Foot the Roman, whose lone album is another underexposed treasure.

Progbear said: “The Movies played on Joan Armatrading‘s 1975 Back To The Night tour, as both opening act and backing band! Members went on to play on her albums after the band dissolved: percussionist Julian Diggle on The Key and drummer Jamie Lane on The Shouting Stage. They were actually the synthesis of two prior Cambridge-area bands—keyboardist Dag Small, drummer Jamie Lane and guitarist Greg Knowles hailed from Public Foot The Roman, who released one proggy LP on the Sovereign (Renaissance, Flash) label. Meanwhile, percussionist Julian Diggle and lead singer/slide guitarist Jon Cole came from an unrecorded band called Thunderbox.

Don’t confuse them with the Seattle trio The Movies, who released a melodic pop album on Arista (produced by Vini Poncia) in 1977.”

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