Saturday, September 13, 2008

Swing Out Sister Get In Touch With Themselves

Swing Out Sister swung back into form with their 1992 album ‘Get In Touch With Yourself’ (UK#27/US#113). The album continued to see Swing Out Sister marry together several normally disparate styles of music, jazz/pop/soul/funk, which at once invited and alienated listeners, depending upon their individual preferences. But though at times caught betwixt and between, the album managed to produced two well received singles. ‘Am I The Same Girl’ leaned more to a mainstream adult contemporary sound, leading it to much airplay and #1 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart (#45 Hot 100), whilst it peaked at #21 in Britain. The song was a reworking of the 1969 Barbara Acklin hit of the same name, which in turn was a reworking of the 1968 instrumental top 10 hit ‘Soulful Strut’ by Young-Holt Unlimited. The follow up ‘Notgonnachange’ was more of dance oriented synth-pop effort, peaking at #49 in the U.K. and #21 on the U.S. Hot Dance Music chart. Swing Out Sister released ‘Live At The Jazz Café’ soon after, the album hard to find outside of Japan.

Much of the feel from their ‘Live At The Jazz Café’ set was captured in Swing Out Sister’s next studio album ‘The Living Return’ (1994), lending it a more fluid sound reflecting a live band in full swing (in fact ten members of the group’s stage line-up played on the record). The hybrid mix of jazz/soul/pop remained at the essence of their sound but it was somehow made edgier and more kinetic on this album, under the production supervision of Ray Hayden. Sadly, aside from the first single ‘La La (Means I Love You)’ (UK#37), which was included on the soundtrack to ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’, the album didn’t yield any hit singles (‘Better Make It Better’ flopped completely) and in fact was the first ‘Swing Out Sister’ album to miss both U.K. and U.S. charts. Fortunately the band retained their star status on the Japanese scene, continuing to play to packed houses and selling huge volumes of albums/singles.

Following the disappointing reception for ‘The Living Return’ in Britain, Mercury Records pretty much pulled the plug on supporting Swing Out Sister at home. They released a ‘Best Of’ collection in 1996 but didn’t release the group’s next three studio albums in Britain - ‘Shapes And Patterns’ (1997), ‘Filth And Dreams’ (1999) and ‘Somewhere Deep In The Night’ (2001 - O’Duffy returned to the producer’s console for this one). Consequently singles such as ‘Somewhere In The World’ (1997) and ‘Through The Sky’ (2001) didn’t receive the commercial airplay they deserved, marking an end to Swing Out Sister’s association with the mainstream charts, though ‘Somewhere In The World‘ did reach #30 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart. Regardless Japan continued their love affair with Swing Out Sister, and a strong and committed fan base remained in the U.S., Britain and Europe.

Finally free of their Mercury Records deal, Swing Out Sister signed with EMI for the release of their critically acclaimed 2004 album ‘Where Our Love Grows’, with another live album ‘Live In Tokyo’, released in 2005, again reflecting the fact that Japan had become the hub of Swing Out Sister’s global popularity. In fact since 1999’s ‘Filth And Dreams’, Connell and Drewery began using Japanese studio musicians on a lot of their work.

2008 sees Swing Out Sister still swinging out across the world with their latest album ‘Beautiful Mess’. The album, featuring the single ‘Secret Love’, again sees Swing Out Sister exploring a myriad of musical styles from hip hop and jazz fusion, to sixties style melody arrangements and electronic rhythm tracks for good measure. A comprehensive tour of Japan, the U.S. and Britain throughout 2008 will see Swing Out Sister once again showcase their unique melodious mix to the world.

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