Sunday, May 11, 2008

China Crisis In An Arizona Sky

At the core of U.K. act China Crisis were the duo of Eddie Lundon and Garry Daly. They formed ranks in collusion with various other musicians during 1979 but it took until 1982 for the group to enjoy their first foray into the pop charts, reaching #45 with 'African And White'. A debut album soon followed, the title of which did little to endear the group to DJ's - 'Difficult Shapes And Passive Rhythms Some People Think It's Fun To Entertain' has to be one of the most unwieldy album titles in history. Regardless it was well received and peaked at #21 in Britain.
Adding a permanent bass player in Gary Johnson and drummer in Kevin Wilkinson rounded out the group's lineup. China Crisis' output was consistent over the next few years but aside from the 1984 single 'Wishful Thinking' (UK#9), the band never cracked it for a major top 10 hit, and always seemed to be on the fringe of the great commercial success enjoyed by contemporaries such as U2, Simple Minds and The Cure - ten top 50 singles in the U.K. with only one reaching the top 10 underlines this fact.

Perhaps part of their problem was that a clearly defined sound seemed to elude them, at least on the surface. Their music oscillated between the darker edged post-punk reminiscent of Joy Division and Psychedelic Furs, and a more straight pop oriented sound associated with the likes of O.M.D. or Spandau Ballet. 'Arizona Sky' was their finest example of the latter and easily rates as my favourite China Crisis track (I bought the 45 at the time of release). The song was lifted from the 1986 album 'What Price Paradise?' produced by Steely Dan legend Walter Becker - you can hear the Steely Dan sound especially in the harmonies. 'Arizona Sky' reached #47 in the U.K. and #52 in Australia. China Crisis had their biggest hit in Australia with 1985's 'Black Man Ray', a tribute in song to Ray Charles. It seems a travesty to me that neither 'Black Man Ray' nor 'Arizona Sky' broke China Crisis in the U.S. market. So much for free trade agreements.

China Crisis recorded their last studio album with 1994's 'Warped By Success' but after another live set release in 1995 the crisis was over and band member's went their separate ways. Core members Eddie Lundon and Garry Daly have since worked on various China Crisis related projects and releases, and toured with a revamped lineup as recently as 2005. China Crisis is arguably one of the greatest bands of the 80s not to be labelled one of the greatest bands of the 80s.

Witness the way music videos should be made with the promo clip for 'Arizona Sky'.

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