Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bigger Than The Beatles - Red Box

This version of Bigger than the Beatles is a bit different in that for 2 singles at least and the first lp if not bigger than the fab 4 they did climb the upper reaches of the chart. I think they still qualify in that their best stuff was still to come and of course sold diddly squat.

I first came across Red Box with the single Lean on Me which was all over the radio and was accompanied with I remember a particularly energetic top of the pops appearance , all flags and drums.

The follow up For America (written after the record company "requested" something that would be a hit across the Atlantic ... which of course it wasn't) continued the pattern of complex rhythms, sing along melodies and a mixture of chants and almost nursery rhyme lyrics that hid big themes.

When the lp came along it was a breath of fresh air with songs that gave a real sense of adventure and experimentation.

Predominately a duo of Simon Toulson- Clarke and Julian Close, it sound with all the instrumentation and massed vocals as if they were joined by a cast of 1000s (including rather strangely  Buffy stalwart Anthony Head on backing vocals)

Heart of the Sun - Red Box

By the time Motive came out 5 years later Julian Close had left leaving Red Box as a recording name for Simon Toulson Clarke and the various musicians he got in to support him especially arranger Alistair Gavin There are some echoes from the first lp especially in the rush of the first single Train, however the music is much lusher and has a more orchestral feel. It is a great lp and should have been massive ... it wasn't

The first track I've posted is the closest to the first lp but shows the progression with the nursery rhyme quality still there but a mellower sound without the tribal tones. The second is part state of the nation and part another song about home and I'm always a sucker for home songs

When I first got broad band I would spend much too much time trawling the web for mentions of bands that seemed to have disappeared into the ether. I came across a fan site for red box ( at a time when such places still had a chance of being on google page 1) run by Lewis Slade and on an impulse joined his news group. Every month he would send out an e:mail which would prompt a little flurry of email chat mainly about the rare times the lps would pop up on ebay and thinking about how to get them rereleased (successfully achieved for the first lp via cherry red with rumours that they are about to do the same with motive in the new year)

Lewis was in contact with Simon and slowly news started to filter in about the possibility of new lp.

Well 17 years after Motive (a time span that would make the Blue Nile proud) the new lp Plenty has appeared. There were rumours that the lp would come out under a different name and I can see why. It is a different beast to the first 2 lps however what remains the same are the fantastic melodies and great use of harmony. This time though the songs are simple often built around piano and strings. There are still echoes there of the first 2 lps but overall it is a much mellower lp

Plenty - Red Box

It's True - Red Box

The band has a great website where you can here more of the latest lp Red Box website here

If you like melodic music, enjoyed Miracle Mile Monday, wished Prefab Sprout went back to Steve McQueen, then give these new songs a listen. I really hope Plenty sells enough to convince Simon Toulson Clarke not to wait another 17 years.... although with my record of people I like and big sales I don't hold out much hope

As a postscript to the power of the fansite. Members of the monthly group were invited to attend an early playing of the cd at a studio followed by a live performance. I couldn't go but it felt like a just reward for the effort Lewis Slade and a few other made in keeping the Red Box name more than just a couple of tracks on 80's compilations



  1. Interesting....I bought their debut album on cassette all those years ago and remember I played it to death,but had no idea what they did since.I've just checked out tracks from their new album and must say the track 'The Sign'is excellent.
    Tel Aviv

  2. Hi Phil

    the lp is well worth getting - the sign is one that is probably closest to some of the earlier stuff with the slighlty native american type chanting bit

  3. 'Plenty' just hit the doormat after your recommendation.
    It's rather lovely, esp' like 'Brighter Blue' on first listening...


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