Café Bleu -The Style Council(1984)
The thing about rundowns of this nature is that they are extremely subjective and personal. I’m sure there’s already been a bit of head scratching around some of the choices, and today’s might well have some of you inwardly saying WTF? Feel free to say it out loud……
By no stretch of any imagination could Café Bleu ever be reckoned to be one of the best or most enjoyable 60 albums of all time. Here’s a few criticisms that can be levelled at it:-
It’s a patchy affair to say the least.
None of the earlier five singles were included.
The seven songs on Side A consist of an instrumental, followed by a ballad, two more instrumentals, two more ballads and one final instrumental.
Side B opens up with an inexcusable and appalling rap effort. It is followed up by a soul-tinged number whose lyrics consist of two often repeated lines….so much for Paul Weller being the best wordsmith of his generation.
Just as you think it’s going to end on a high after three successively good songs across the next part of Side B, it ends on yet another instrumental, which means 5 of the 13 tracks have no lyrics, while one other has barely any.
Three of the songs on the album were re-workings of old material. One saw a jaunty single turned into a piano ballad, while another jazz-guitar and Hammond Organ infused b-side was given the full band treatment with additional lead vocalists, drums and saxophones all thrown into the mix*
*actually, it could be argued that both of the new versions were improvements on the original versions.
And so to the pluses……there are two of them.
The Paris Match, the third reworking of an old song, provided a real highlight with it turning into an atmospherically jazzy ballad thanks to guest appearances from Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt.
You’re The Best Thing, later released as a single, proved to be one of the finest songs that Paul Weller ever penned. It was most likely the soundtrack of many a romance that summer.
The thing is, the second entry on the plus side has an incalculable value as far as I’m concerned.
mp3: The Style Council – You’re The Best Thing
Café Bleu was an album bought for me by the first girlfriend I fell in love with beyond any teenage infatuations. It always instantly takes me back to memories when the two of us journeyed across Europe on cheap student railcards visiting cities that previously had only been figments of our imagination including Paris, Nice, Monte Carlo, Milan, Florence and Venice which is where the money ran out, and we had to return home as quickly as we could possibly manage to stave off starvation.
Plans for the likes of Munich and Amsterdam were talked about for the next time; except there wasn’t a next time, as it all turned sour within a matter of months after our return to Glasgow.
It’s best not to dwell too much on what caused it all to end. I’d like to think her life has turned out just as good as mine has, almost 40 years on. I’ll never forget her, and that’s why, no matter all its many flaws, this album merits its place in the rundown.
Don’t worry, I promise that I won’t get this personal again over the remaining 44 albums.
11 thoughts on “60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #45”
It’s great to see this one make an appearance. Such an odd album. It has its own time and place associations here too but apart from A Gospel (conveniently skippable as first track side 2) it all clicked for me despite feeling cheated when Ever Changing Moods turned out to be a piano ballad (it was good but not a patch on the single) Supermarket jazz, Spandau, Dexys – objectively you couldn’t tell anyone this is a great album but for some reason it works. The other albums they did were fairly tedious so maybe it was the novelty of having to start again that gives it whatever it has.
JC – another great article👏. Evocative soundtracks to a Summer spent inter- railing will never leave those afflicted. I cannot hear ‘Faron Young’ without immediately being onboard an impossibly hot , cramped train whizzing down Italy’s south east leg. Like you, despite acknowledging it’s failings, the faintest whiff of ‘Cafe Bleu’ (along with an overplayed C90 containing ‘Murmur’ & ‘Reckoning’ ) would be packed before any shorts or lotion. Sadly, such life-affirming experiences (thanks to the xenophobic Tories), are now just relics for a new generation.
“Don’t worry, I promise that I won’t get this personal again over the remaining 44 albums.”
Not so fast JC!
The secret Proustian sauce of an exercise like this is to rekindle those memories which are bound to be very personal. By their nature, those memories and associated feelings are impossible to encapsulate in mere words. We may be able to describe where were,who we were with, what we were doing, but then, sometimes only the music can zero in and make the feeling real, even if it becomes increasingly ephemeral over time.
For me, Long Hot Summer/Paris Match takes me back to a holiday with friends in Great Yarmouth, bank holiday August ’83. I can remember events, see photos, the hot weather, all the laughs, and so much more but the essence of the feelings evoked by the music is not easy to describe in a few words.
I only put ‘You’re The Best Thing’ on a mix tape for one girl. Then I married her, 31 years ago next week.
This might be one of those rare cases where the american distributor got it right. I grew up on My Ever Changing Moods and maybe its the nostalgia talking but to my ear it feels like the album this was meant to be.
Nothing wrong at all with personal responses to music. And there’s nothing wrong with this album either
Don’t think too much about whether you like the album for personal reasons or not. Each of us has albums in our collection for which we have a personal connection. And that is also good. It doesn’t really need an explanation why an album is close to your heart. And I too have a great affinity with this album because of personal experiences from that time. A wonderful album that seems to be timeless.
You get a personal as you like. The story attached to this album from you is now attached to it for all of us who read it too. And that is exactly what pop music is for
It’s your blog, JC, you can get as personal as you like – surely that’s the whole point of self-publishing! (Did you see what I did there?) I bought the first four singles when they came out but for some reason never got the album. Funnily enough I just picked it up at a record fair here in NZ recently, along with Our Favourite Shop, for a combined cost of about $30 I think. Bargain! Agreed it’s not one of music’s all-time classics, but I think would have fairly enjoyed it had I got it in 1984, and I quite enjoy it now. Yes, the rapping is a bit cringey, but far from the worst example of that kind of thing. Similarly, I listened to the unreleased house album Modernism: A New Decade on Spotify recently and again it’s not as bad as you might expect. Compared to most of the house shite that was invading the charts in 1989 it’s perfectly respectable.
In fact I always thought personal thoughts do in fact enrich posts, so the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned! And yes, this album was not the easiest one to listen to, especially not for old Jam fans …. 🙂
The personal touch was fine with me. I’m sure I speak for many, so many songs or albums from our formative years will hold such thoughts.
It’s a decent album too…