By Henry Lipput
Back in the old days of pop music (the ‘60s), groups like the Beatles were expected to release two albums and three singles every year — and the singles weren’t even on the album (I’m not talking about the cut-and-paste LPs we got here in the U.S. but the 14-songs plus a single that the Beatles put out in England). Even after they stopped touring in 1966 and the group’s other activities slowed down, the Fabs still released an album a year.
That was a long time ago and nowadays you’re lucky if your favorite band releases an album every three years — and sometimes they can, and will, take even longer.
The Blue Nile, a three piece from Glasgow, Scotland, took up to eight years to follow up a release and in the band‘s 20-year history they only released four albums. Their first album, 1984’s A Walk Across The Rooftops, was marked by a stripped-down, moody, late-night vibe (Uncut Magazine calls them “space-age Sinatras“). Although the Blue Nile’s sound concentrated on Robert Bell‘s bass and PJ Moore‘s keyboards and synthesizers, the instruments were balanced by Buchanan’s warm vocals.
Hats followed in 1989 and is justifiably considered a classic containing such great songs as “Downtown Lights” (I LOVE the funky, strummed guitar and Buchanan‘s almost shouted vocal at the very end), “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” and “Saturday Night.” The band returned in 1996 with Peace At Last (my personal favorite — the band incorporates more acoustic sounds to the mix and the songs, especially “Family Life,” resonate with me). Their final release was High in 2004.
So why am I writing about a band whose last album was released in 2004? Well, two things have happened recently that give me an opportunity to introduce The Blue Nile to more people.
Last year, eight years after the last Blue Nile LP, Paul Buchanan released Mid Air, a quiet, gorgeous solo album. Buchanan is accompanied only by a piano rather than the bass and synthesizers that made up The Blue Nile’s sound. But his voice and the recognizable musical chord changes make Mid Air very much of a piece with his work with his former band. And although the album is a contemporary work, the use of only voice and piano can remind you of a classical song cycle (well, it reminds me of that kind of thing). This disc would certainly have been in the Top Five I wrote about last month but I didn’t hear Mid Air until January. But, please, don’t let my delay in getting a copy of this album keep you from getting one of your own.
And, just last month, the first two Blue Nile albums, A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats, were re-issued. Re-mastered and with bonus discs, these two have long been hard to find if not downright out-of-print. These albums always sounded great but the re-mastering has added an another level of clarity. Hats, especially, is an even more rewarding listening experience.
Back in the ‘80s, fans had to wait years for a new album from The Blue Nile. But you have no such excuse today.
Henry Lipput is a writer living in the Pittsburgh, PA, area. He has written for a telefundraising company, defense contractors, and engineering companies. He has also written freelance articles on specialty advertising, health care, small businesses, and general interest topics for both national and local publications, including CD reviews for the late, lamented Pittsburgh Boomers..