Released today in 1986: In All Honesty

Siren SIREN18

Siren SIREN18

Well, here’s a mid-80s record sleeve if ever I saw one. Immaculately-coiffed unsmiling band members posing in soft-focus, the photograph framed by a parchment-effect border to make it look like textured paper, all complemented by carefully-selected typography. It was an age of liberal use of the airbrush and the Letraset. How appropriate then that the single in question should be by Breathe, a band very much of its time: a product of the 1980s that barely survived into the 90s.

Listening to Breathe’s debut album All That Jazz today is a frustrating experience. There is some strong material fighting to get out of bland arrangements; like so many records of the time, it’s overproduced. David Glasper’s singing is affected and insincere: he’s simply too polished and one can hear the effort he’s putting into delivering a supposedly heartfelt vocal. (Too much emphasis is placed on vibrato, I suppose to emphasise the emotion on the ballads, where holding a note would suffice – which is a pity because he’s capable of doing the latter.) And some of the songs are over-indulgent – Monday Morning Blues for example, where all the studio equipment available seems to have been utilized, simply because it was there.

It sounds dated, but then it would being nearly 30 years old. What sets it apart from other albums released at the time is the speed at which it dated, sounding “terribly eighties” as early 1990 when their second album was released. Trying to judge it in context without using the benefit of available hindsight is such a difficult task, but it’s true that back in its day it was a very marketable product. It was milked for singles, six of its ten tracks being issued as 45s – five in the UK and another released in the US only – which maintained its shelf-life at the time. In fact, it was released twice here: the first version featuring the four original members of the band, and the re-issue with a new cover omitting departing member Michael Delahunty. This second edition featured a new mix of Don’t Tell Me Lies as a bonus track, their debut single having been left off the first version. (Today’s featured single, In All Honesty, didn’t make the cut on either edition.)

The album was re-issued due to the success of the single Hands To Heaven. It took two attempts to get that into the charts too, but on the second push it became their biggest hit. Deservedly so, as it’s their best work – and happily, it sounds the freshest of all the tracks on the album today. Had ‘The X-Factor’ existed in a similar form 30 years ago, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if David Glasper had won it with his technically accurate and pleasant voice. The trouble for him was that there was nothing distinctive about his singing; the trouble for Breathe was that there was nothing distinctive about their repertoire. I wonder how many of those people who do remember Hands To Heaven would be able to name the act that recorded it. Shame.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Apr. 28
1986
BREATHE In All Honesty (Siren SIREN18)
Kate BUSH The Big Sky (Special Single Mix) (EMI KB4)
DOCTOR AND THE MEDICS (Clive Jackson) Spirit In The Sky (IRS IRM113)
Nick HEYWARD Over The Weekend (Arista HEY9)
IMAGINATION (Leee John) Sunshine (R&B Records RBS1804)

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