Perry Blake: Lonesome Traveller

Posted by in Culture, Music, Record Cover Design

THE SALMON OF MY PERRY KNOWLEDGE

*This blog contains affiliate links.

‘You must be a big fan of Perry Blake’ says the French store assistant in English on my asking about something Japan related. ‘Umm yeah’ I say having only heard of him because Steve Jansen played on (at that time) Perry’s latest recording Still Life.

Though I’m also aware of his first album which had some media coverage in the UK music press and several promo singles (Genevieve and The Hunchback of San Francisco) had found their way into various record store nooks and crannies. Though there are plenty of others worthy of listeners attention.

So Long’s cinematic intro and gentle wah guitar chorus, Widows by the Radio, House in the Clouds. This was the work of an old time crooner set against pro-tools of the modern recording studio. The obscure and eccentric were also at play (Weeping Tree).

Genevieve by the way had the most wonderful cover and it’s difficult to understand why this wasn’t chosen for the first album ahead of the shot of Perry (not pictured) that won out.

STILL LIFE IN PARIS

And speaking of covers, it’s Still Life that intrigued me. In addition some of the artists from which he took his cue, notably David Sylvian (Jansen’s brother – but surely you already knew that right?) and perhaps a more accessible Scott Walker?

It’s in Paris later down the track that I succumb and purchase said album on the French label Naive. It is a bit like buying a luxurious chocolate box, as I unwrap the cellophane from the CD case and open the booklet, it’s a thing of beauty.

The problem is I was in the midst of my early years on the road. This meant staying in backpackers and as much as I love the Australian’s good spirits and humour, these guys were the more boisterous of the species and are not taking too kindly to my Perry CD.

‘Hey mate stick on the Gurge’one says to another referring to Aussie band Regurgitator and before I knew it Perry had been evicted from the disc tray and slammed on the bar. They were good guys but in that moment I was a little dismayed!

In short there was not enough time to properly digest or work into the songs, so I never got to know Still Life as intimately as I intended until many years later and even now some of it is either too long or doesn’t grab me.

What does are the dusky couplet of Still Lives and Driftwood – as good as Sylvian’s I Should Not Dare if you like that kind of moody introspection. I also like the forlorn summer swoon of Sandriam, and the spangly War in France featuring some splendid drumming by Jansen.

It is a wonder that someone only a few months older than me was capable of this kind of craftsmanship AND got to work with Steve Jansen as well as Ross Cullum who had co-produced the early Tears for Fears records (both The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair alongside Chris Hughes).

If only I hadn’t lost my lustre via bad experience. Perry then represents a fellow hero of the word, the song and a kind of Irish soul brother if that possibly makes sense and isn’t too pompous.

GOING TO CALIFORNIA

I can’t remember now how I came to hear the follow up California but when I did, it too was mesmerising, sparkling bright especially on the curtain raiser This Life; like cruising around LA in the car on the album’s sleeve. Perhaps if not too brash, a convertible.

While Saying Goodbye recalls the evening (again in reference to the cover) as well as Peter Kingsbery‘s more mellow moments, say Love in Motion (another evensong stunner from the much mentioned A Different Man album).

When ‘Morning Song’ arrives towards the end of the album it is authentic, stately and damn right stunning! Like waking up in an expensive hotel room with ceiling to floor windows and rich chocolate curtains, each object in the room deftly lit by the soft sunlight streaming in. In other words it’s music that has been meticulously crafted by Perry with Italian producer and composer, Marco Sabiu.

There is something of the late sixties and early seventies present but at the same time its contemporary sophistication remained unhindered. The equally gorgeous Venus of the Canyon rounds things off – the word ‘canyon’ providing an unknown inkling to the future. How can the knower be known indeed.

SING A SONG FOR SOMEONE

Songs for Someone is almost as popular an Irish saying as the concept of home or coming home in Perry’s case. We Are Not Stars opens slowly, possibly in the style of a French art film, a gentle harp, a violin, then guided by way of electronic ignition the song launches into a mid tempo electro-acoustic cruise.

It’s moody yet simultaneously uplifting, literally heavenly on the chorus. Ava meanwhile is another melancholic wonder, sung in falsetto, sad yet warm and beautiful with it.

And then there’s an inspired version of Native New Yorker which he manages to make his own; not easy with such a renowned and revered disco classic. The album has two covers both of which are unfortunately unremarkable.

One is an extreme close up of Perry’s face and as much as I rate his music I’d rather some art, even if he does resemble Andrea Corr’s brother (strangely more so than Jim!) The other is a more tasteful shot where Perry looks like an Irish poet (well he kind of is) in drab colours, Noel Gallagher meets Enya!

A year later, fast going for any artist in the digital age, came The Crying Room and it’s the album I know least of all. The typography is a little plain and I might have opted for a Palatino or similar in keeping with Still Life. The image of the tree is illustrated by Micheal Wann, showcasing the poetic nature evident in much of his output with production again helmed by Sabiu.

THE REBIRTH OF COUNTRY SOUL

Many of my faves are not afraid to push boundaries or shift their sonic palette. Perry is no exception and so to the country tinged Canyon Songs which also has two differing sleeve designs the second of which, Portuguese as far as I know, resembles Cock Robin’s I Don’t Want to Save the World. The songs however are most successful in Gemini, If You See Mary and The Letter.

Again these are authentic and tip the hat towards the lavish vein of Wichita Lineman era Glenn Campbell (The Letter) or Bobby Goldsboro’s Summer (The First Time) from 1968 and 1973 respectively. So it’s in that sphere and time frame that Perry obviously has a musical kinship. As an interesting side note, Canyon Songs was recorded entirely in Europe so how he got the moods right is incredible.

BLURRING THE AGES, BLURRING THE TIMES

Bored of the ‘Perry’ moniker, he turned to a band name much in keeping with Bowie (Tin Machine) or Sylvian (Nine Horses). Thus Electro Sensitive Behaviour assembled Modern Love – itself a ‘love letter to the eighties’ as Perry himself put it.

Its lead single Missing Person embraced club beats and synth pop. It had more in common with the Pet Shop Boys than the crooners of the past. The album cover was a contradiction utilising 1920’s imagery and typography.

I like the idea but somehow it’s not entirely successful. I do however like the duplex shot of Perry which has been played about with in photoshop; adding a splash of colour which I think may have been down to serendipity!

Perry is one of those rare artists who gather a bigger audience elsewhere, mainly in France and the Iberian peninsular, no matter how much the Hot Press in Ireland proclaim his worthiness.

Now two decades into his career Perry is set to release his next album on Moochin’ About and he was gracious enough to supply a possible track list which includes: Boxes (nothing to do with Icehouse as far as I know), Evensong, and Broken Little Orphan. See my review of Perry’s Song of Praise album here.

In 2021 Moochin’ About will reissue the first few Perry albums and this will in turn be joined by new material in Feb 2022 (more details when I have them). Now when I’m asked by someone if I’m a fan, I’m able to answer with a more definitive version of yeah.

 

BUY PERRY ON EBAY

PLAYLIST AND CREDITS

Thanks for reading here. Should anyone be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, please contact me for a FREE Overview PDF. Meanwhile, stay tuned with Kulture Kiosk via The Atlas or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Playlist and credits follow…

PLAYLIST
So Long (from the first album) – Perry Blake
Sandriam (from Still Life) – Perry Blake
Driftwood (from Still Life) – Perry Blake
I Should Not Dare – David Sylvian
Saying Goodbye (from California) – Perry Blake
Love in Motion – Peter Kingsbery
Morning Song (from California) – Perry Blake
We Are Not Stars (from Songs for Someone) – Perry Blake
Ava (from Songs for Someone) – Perry Blake
If You See Mary (from Canyon Songs) – Perry Blake
Summer (The First Time) – Bobby Goldsboro
The Letter (from Canyon Songs) – Perry Blake
Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell
Missing Person – Electro Sensitive Behaviour
Travelling (from Songs for Someone) – Perry Blake

Album covers as always from discogs
Special lyric images by me, lyrics by Perry Blake.