China Crisis, “Tragedy & Mystery” from Working With Fire and Steel (2017 reissue): One Track Mind

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China Crisis continues a resurgence that started with the release of 2015’s Autumn in the Neighbourhood.

The group is now reaching back to a trio of mid-1980s classics, giving them the remixed and remastered treatment. Additionally, the albums Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms, Working with Fire and Steel and Flaunt the Imperfection receive live songs, bonus tracks and reedits to fill out a bonus disc.

Working with Fire and Steel, released by China Crisis in 1983, is expanded with two bonus discs that are equally as enchanting as the original release. An extended version of “Tragedy and Mystery” is one of the many gems included.

China Crisis’ original Cars-meets-Brian Eno motif is retained here. Even more prominent in the remix is the sublime fretless bass work by bassist Gary “Gazza” Johnson and the vocal interplay between singer/keyboardist Gary Daly and guitarist Eddie Lundon. “Tragedy and Mystery” has a great feel which, though decidedly ’80s, is even more inviting today. Daly’s vocal delivery recalls Rick Ocasek, if he were more expressive, and blends perfectly with the pop sounds of Lundon’s timbre.

The new remix adds an extended break which ties in Johnson’s fretless work, the Roxy Music-like oboe of guest Steve Levy and the flugelhorn of Luke Tunney quite nicely.

Your world is changing though you cannot see
And there’s no room for secrecy
Your world is changing faster every day
And there’s no truth in what they say
Two by two
My heaven made blue
Life in a world of love and truth
Tragedy and mystery
Open your mind and you will see

These tight, effective lyrics combine with Mike Howlett’s tasteful sonic palette as a producer to make “Tragedy and Mystery” great. The extended remix only adds to its allure; it also helps make China Crisis’ 2017 update of Working with Fire and Steel one of the best reissues of the year.


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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  • Earle Capel

    i have been re-listening to fire and steel for about two week now, so glad to see this review… yes to the superb bass lines…oboe as well for its subtle elegance(will have to look for the horns a bit more)… i would say: the instrumentation as you noted, the lyrical balance and mind set/theme cadence, plus the varied pacing by what i assume is programmed drums and synth, and finally, the change up of vocalists is pretty smooth and full of memory. i will have to look out for the re-issue of difficult shapes and passive rhythms and flaunt the imperfection… i had them all but only have my orginal 83 fire/steel…

    • Preston Frazier

      It’s such a strong album. The reissues are all great. I’ll review more when I get a chance. Thanks for your comments.

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