Remember horns? Whether real or synthesized, the 80s were full of them. And it wasn’t a big deal. Most bands employed a brass section.
Well, other than the occasional Clarence Clemons sighting, I can’t think of a rock band that uses a horn in any current bands or hit singles. Sampling horns for "Crazy In Love" doesn’t count.
I was a big fan of the horns back in the day. They seemed to liven up the party. This brings me to the Blow Monkeys, who used them better than most. Their one and only American hit, "Digging Your Scene", incorporated them seamlessly into their loungey, sophisti-pop sound and no one batted an eye.
The surprise of Animal Magic is actually the guitar. Scrape away the horns and the strings and you have some legitimate blues guitar going on. Whether it’s the acoustic strum of "Wicked Ways", or the clippity-clop underlying "Burn The Rich", which, in Dwight Yoakam or the like’s hands, would have been a total barn-burner. In fact, I remember “dubbing” (remember that?) the album off a friend and being disappointed because the guitars were so prevalent. My tastes were geared more toward the Thompson Twins at that point, and this was not that.
The only thing keeping an album like Animal Magic from catching on with now people is the fey voice of leader, Dr. Robert. It’s only as I listen to the album now that I catch on to the veiled homoeroticism that I was too young to catch onto before. Plus, let’s face it, who DIDN’T seem gay in the 80s? It was such the style that my gaydar still doesn’t work right because I was never faced with a difference. He’s since traded his status in as Lounge Lizard to Torchsong Troubador, but it doesn’t fit him like this does.
Animal Magic is an album that deserves to be rediscovered today. Almost every song is a winner and, when you can listen without prejudice (thank you, George Michael), the musicianship is solid. It’s shrouded in that 80s production that drowns out such things in favor of that lush sheen, but it’s there.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I am finally placing this album in my all-time top 5. If you even remotely liked "Digging Your Scene", do yourself a favor and investigate the rest. There aren’t that many albums out there that deserve to remain on repeat for days on end.
Sadly, this masterpiece is out of print. But, I have a spare copy if anyone wants to buy it off me. :)
The Nugget – "Aeroplane City Lovesong". It’s got all the best of the various elements that make this such an incredible record; bluesy guitars, emotional strings, sexy brass, bongos and congas, and that unsung element of any great song, Black backup singers.