McAloon, Paddy - I Trawl The Megahertz

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Liberty Records/EMI
Catalog Number: 7243 5 83911 21
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:22:00

For a lot of you the name Paddy McAloon might not say very much, yet when I tell you Paddy has been the songwriting brain behind the successful band Prefab Sprout for years, then I'm convinced this introduction doesn't need to go any further. However, 1999 seemed to be a disastrous year for Paddy with eye surgery being the major issue. McAloon could no longer read. This prevented him from writing music in his usual manner, so in order to fill his days he would listen to and tape all kinds of TV and radio programmes, bits of phone-ins, pieces of chat shows, citizen's band conversations filled to the rim with clichés, military encryptions. Different time zones and frequencies would intertwine and make up new stories in the mind of McAloon. "Have you any idea how many sad stories are floating on the airwaves after midnight," Paddy asks? Indeed a lot of people share their entire life with someone miles away sitting behind a microphone.

Recorded in room 551 of the Royal Garden Hotel; Kensington, London on October 25th 1999 between 6.15 pm and 8.45 pm, the major voice on the lengthy title track is that of one Yvonne Connors. She is the paint on McAloon's canvas backed by an outstanding arrangement featuring the sublime Robert McFall Orchestra and subtle brass and woodwind. The nearly 22:00 long track keeps on repeating the main theme yet it blends well with the narration, but as the opening track maybe it's still a little too ambitious. However, with this track the atmosphere for this album is set and the same kind of "pure British" atmosphere will be found all over the CD. Wonderful, lush instrumental soundscapes balance on the border of minimalist music. Throughout this album the strings, brass and woodwind will firmly make their mark. In a way "Esprit De Corps" can even be seen as sort of a rural ?Tubular Bells." As can be expected, the cello in "We Were Poor" adds the necessary drama, whilst the muted trumpet kind of harks back to World War II. When a military drum is inserted during "Fall From Grace," that effect is even enhanced. The repetitive marimba of "Orchid 7" acts like the backdrop for even more strings and brass interventions.

For "I'm 49" McAloon has made up a new set of lyrics by cutting and pasting snippets from "I Trawl The Megahertz". Without masking the actual voices, people out there might be lucky enough to hear their voice being part of this composition. For those who forgot how unique Paddy's own voice sounds, "Sleeping Rough" is sung by the man himself, becoming like an acoustic Prefab Sprout song. The final song probably has the nicest orchestration of them all with fine harp contrasting with the low cello.

In a way this album reminds me of Joe Jackson's Heaven And Hell. Compared with his early period it also marked a big change and even bigger changes were still to come. Due to his illness it was like McAloon wanted to remain silent where spoken word is concerned and thus restricted himself to the all instrumental format. It's as if he wanted to prove that he was capable of producing interesting music regardless of a certain handicap. However in order to fully underline the importance of the title track he let an outsider in as narrator so that "I Trawl The Megahertz" became something truly special. "If you're in pain, music can work on the level of anaesthetic." I'm sure this album does!

I Trawl The Megahertz (21:59) / Esprit De Corps (4:51) / We Were Poor (3:37) / Fall From Grace (4:49) / Orchid 7 (4:18) / I'm 49 (3:48) / Sleeping Rough (3:30) / Ineffable (2:42) / But We Were Happy (3:48)

Greg Lawson - violin
Robert McFall - violin
Brian Schiele - viola
Robert Irvine - cello
Rick Standley - double bass
Gerard Presencer - trumpet, flugelhorn
Julian Arg?elles - clarinets, tenor sax
Johann Sebastian Barcode - keyboards, programming
Corky Anderson - percussion
Paddy McAloon - vocals

Prefab Sprout - Swoon (1984)
Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen (1985/2008)
Prefab Sprout - Two Wheels Good (1985)
Prefab Sprout - From Langley Park To Memphis (1988/1997)
Prefab Sprout - Swoon/Steve McQueen (1988)
Prefab Sprout - Protest Songs (1989)
Prefab Sprout - Jordan: The Comeback (1990)
Prefab Sprout - The Best Of Prefab Sprout: A Life Of Surprises (1992)
Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen/From Langley Park To Memphis (1995)
Prefab Sprout - Andromeda Heights (1997)
Prefab Sprout - 38 Caret Collection (1999)
Prefab Sprout - The Collection (US version of 38?) (2001)
Prefab Sprout - The Gunman And Other Stories (2001)
I Trawl The Megahertz (2003)
Prefab Sprout - From Langley Park To Memphis/Jordan: The Comeback (2007)
Prefab Sprout - Kings Of Rock 'N' Roll: The Best Of Prefab Sprout (2007)
Prefab Sprout - Original Album Classics (box set) (2009)
Let's Change The World (2009)

Genre: Other

Origin UK

Added: August 24th 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 658
Language: english


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