Paul Young’s debut solo album was my guilty secret in 1983. Fronting a heavy rock band as I was at the time I wasn’t supposed to be listening to stuff like this. Blue eyed soul pop music but I was and I still am and it’s still as good today as it was then.
I’ve never quite understood why Paul Young hasn’t really been the credit he deserves and why he was allowed to virtually disappear underground during the nineties. Maybe he was just too associated with the eighties to survive the anti eighties era that followed. Fact of the matter is he is still one of the best white soul style singers and deserves a place amongst the elite. Mind you anyone who is going to cite Paul Rodgers as one of his main influences is going to get the nod from me.
‘No Parlez’ features eleven quality tracks and some great musicians as well. Ian ‘The Rev’ Kewley was still on board from the Q-Tips days. Pino Palladino is probably one of the best bass players ever to pick one up. Rico pops up playing the trombone on a couple of tracks and who could forget the delightful Kim Leslie and Maz Roberts aka The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts two women who were responsible for me insisting on having female backing vocalists from the first day I saw them much to the bewilderment of the rest of my band.
‘Come Back and Stay’ opens up the album and although is one of the hit singles and one of the best known on the album I personally think it is one of the weakest. Things don’t look too promising when you get to track two either. The Joy Division track ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is just plain dull. Youngs version is as good as anyones but in my opinion it is just not a very good song and lord knows why it is so popular.
Fortunately the album really kicks into gear with the classic Gaye/Whitfield/Strong composition ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’, a song which propelled Young into superstardom and to the top of the singles chart. ‘Ku Ku Kurama’ is a quirky little track and the title track is an absolute joy. ‘Love of the Common People’ is another absolute classic which is my personal favourite on the album and is a rare 10/10 track for me. Similar in subject matter and style to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living For The City’ it is a song which I am amazed hasn’t been covered more. But that of course could be down to Young totally nailing it as his own here. The quality continues on ‘Oh Women’ which is another personal favourite and shows Young’s love of Paul Rodgers in its style. ‘Iron Out The Rough Spots’ is a little monotonous expecially on the CD re-issue which features extended mxes of a lot of the tracks. At seven and a half minutes this one is a bit too long. The Young/Kewley penned ‘Broken Man’ follows and is totally superb, displaying the quality in Youngs voice to the maximum. This was actually a Q-Tips track to start with and there is a blinding live version on the Q-Tips live album. For any of my Deep Purple fans that are reading this ‘Broken Man’ is to Young what ‘Mistreated’ was to David Coverdale. Who would have thought I’d manage to get Deep Purple into a review of a Paul Young album. Things drop off a little for the last two tracks ‘Tender Trap’ and ‘Sex’ but they are still pretty good.
This is a classic pop/soul album in my opinion and is one that should be given a lot more credit. There is an argument that it is one of the best debut solo albums of its day and I am glad that I didn’t allow musical genre prejudices prevent me from enjoying it from day one.
© Martin Leedham. Originally published on RYM November 2009