China Crisis – Autumn in the Neighbourhood (2015)

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What better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of China Crisis’ seminal 1985 Flaunt the Imperfection project than with a brand-new album? I guess Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon, collectively known as China Crisis, could have reissued Flaunt with live and bonus tracks but, musically, Autumn in the Neighbourhood is where the duo is now.

While the Walter Becker-produced Flaunt the Imperfection was group project, with China Crisis being anchored by bassist Garry “Gazza” Johnson and the late Kevin Wilkinson on drums, Autumn in the Neighbourhood employs the workshop concept with China Crisis revolving around producer/keyboardist McNeil with occasional input from Gary Johnson on keyboards, acoustic guitar and lead vocals and Eddie Lundon providing occasional guitar and vocal input.

The result is a sound which is a little less world-music like, but still adventuresome and contemporary. Gone are some of the groove-oriented reggae leanings which where expertly demonstrated in songs like “You Did Cut Me” from Flaunt. However, the pop sensibilities of China Crisis hits like “Black Man Ray” are still demonstrated in tracks such as “Joy And The Spark.”

Indeed, “Joy And The Spark” could have come from China Crisis’ Flaunt the Imperfection or Diary of a Hollow Horse, in that it features the band from that era — including the late Kevin Wilkinson on drums. The Daly-penned song, like most of Autumn in the Neighbourhood reflects a wistfulness and introspection similar to the best China Crisis songs.

“Fool,” the sole Eddie Lundon composition, could have easily fallen off one of Becker’s earlier Steely Dan project with its non-intrusive horn work and biting electric guitar parts. Lyrically, Lundon is direct and to the point, which fits perfectly with the theme of the song. “Because My Heart,” a writing collaboration between Daly and bassist Gazza Johnson, is an elegant piano and acoustic guitar led gem. The song reflects the maturity and grace the band has developed over the years, adeptly incorporating pedal steel guitar, accordion and even mandolin (played by Wilkinson).

“Tell Tale Signs” charts new waters for China Crisis, as it’s mostly a piano and pedal steel affair with Gary Daly being the only member of the band appearing on it. Continuing on the minimalist theme is the album closer, “Wonderful New World.” It too prominently features a pleading pedal steel, played by Stuart Nisbet and accompanied by Gary Lundon’s acoustic guitar. An unusual and subtle way to end an album, but an effective one for a band that seems to be looking forward.


Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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