Swing Out Sister | Private View
By Peggy Oliver
When Corrine Drewery first decided to pursue music without the benefit of professional experience, one could imagine there were plenty of hoops to jump. From impressing and winning over band mates Andy Connell and Martin Jackson of Swing Out Sister, to eventually releasing their debut album in 1985, It’s Better to Travel, for the mainstream market, Drewery was in for a very profitable future. The humble beginnings were understandably bumpy as their very first single flopped. Then the following year came “Breakout,” that carefree funky sensation that launched the U.K. band’s career (mostly as the duo of Drewery and Connell) producing ten studio and two live albums. S.O.S. have been quietly going about their musical mission despite just a
few top-of-the chart hits, another being the remake of an obscure soul classic, “Am I The Same Girl?” In fact, it would be almost unfair to declare S.O.S. a one-hit wonder as they have fared quite well internationally, especially in Japan, where they released two live concert CD’s.
S.O.S.’s sophisticated easy-listening pop flair, inspired by composer/producers Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb, have enhanced their sound to this day along with injections of soul classics, modern jazz and dance club mixes. To mark their twenty-fifth anniversary, S.O.S recently reissued their debut album. They also recently re-released their 2010 disc Private View
(with additional tracks), where they revisit portions of their catalog by emphasizing softer, more acoustic arrangements from the original versions with a few synthesizer flourishes.
Drewery’s laid-back, distinct vocal touches are at the forefront backed by Connell and a complimentary four-piece band. “Incomplete Without You” captures that Bacharach/David atmospheric vibe. The two minute plus interlude, “It May Not Be Enough,” radiates with sonic beauty by its hard hitting bell-like percussion, a hypnotic keyboard barrage and
ambient voices. On the other hand, the other interlude, “And The Flowers Will Grow,” drowns in its meandering flow.
Besides their own material, S.O.S. is quite credible when covering sixties soul treasures. One of S.O.S.’s biggest hits, “Am I The Same Girl?” even in its more stripped down form, utilizes the Young Holt Unlimited’s instrumental funky jazz smash, “Soulful Strut” (later released vocally by Barbara Acklin). The Delphonics’ “La La Means I Love You” is subtly
tailored with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and the pop ballad, “Make It With You” by Bread. However, their latest incarnation of “Breakout” absolutely lacks the original’s downright funky intensity. Private View eventually
gets back on track with its closing piece, “Now That You’re Here,” a classy celebration of legendary vibraphonist Cal Tjader.
Coincidentally, Private View is packaged with Tokyo Stories, an intimate full-length concert DVD from the band’s favorite stomping ground, Tokyo, Japan. This CD/DVD combo is a bargain for the hardcore S.O.S. fan. Despite the oversights
on Private View, it is evident that Drewery and Connell continue to carry the S.O.S. banner with shear confidence,
over twenty-five years after their first encounter.
Three and three-quarter stars out of five.
The Urban Music Scene