Prefab Sprout website: A Life of Surprises

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Rollmo! No. 15


Rollmo! # 15So here we are, ten years on from the first release of Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone) on the band's own Candle Records label, with a compilation album of "The Best of Prefab Sprout". And it's packed full with sixteen racks (including two new ones), making it money well-spent when all those closet Sprout fans decide to come out and cash in on the booty.
But how easy is it pick your favourite 16 tracks from their superb back-catalogue? It's all down to personal preference, of course, but even though I initially thought Columbia/Sony had made a good selection, you just can't help thinking, "God, why don't Lions or The Golden Calf appear in there?"

Then again, the "Best Of" doesn't include Looking For Atlantis (which reached No. 51) but includes I Remember That, which was neither an A- or B- side in the UK. Furthermore, why was there only one track taken each from Swoon and Protest Songs?
I've made a study of "The Best Of" which profiles each of the tracks selected and the (Gallup/TOTP) chart successes of all their singles to date - read on ...
What does Paddy McAloon say?
"Ten years of making records may justify a Best Of, but it's hard to feel nostalgic when you hope that the best is yet to come. And who knows? It's a life of surprises."
Paddy doesn't like to look back - he's against digging up past works for the purpose of remixing; upon recording The Golden Calf he realised that he'd forgotten what exactly the song was about, having written it in the late 70's, years before the Langley Park album, quoting, "I barely can believe I'm me. If I didn't know better, I would swear I was someone else."
He also maintains, "You're only as good as the last great thing you did." So in this case, it's The Sound Of Crying and If You Don't Love Me, the new tracks on the album. The question is .. How great are they?
Both tracks enlisted the help of Stephen Lipson on production. Lipson worked with Paul Gommersall (who engineered the recording of Jordan: The Comeback) alongside Trevor Horn in the Frankie and Propaganda hey-days of ZTT in the mid-80's. The production is faithful to that of Dolby's style but very commercially biased. The Sound Of Crying could of sat comfortably alongside the "pop songs" section in Jordan and If You Don't Love Me has echoes of The Ice Maiden.
Well, The Sound Of Crying hit the charts (according to the NME "In with a pellet"), reaching No. 23, the band's biggest hit single next to The King Of Rock And Roll, proving an ideal vehicle for further sales of the "Best of" album.
Going back to the album as a whole, however, I think that the songs selected are well-ordered. Each one is comfortable next to its successor in sequence, with the exception of one - Cruel follows I Remember That, where the mellow tones of Paddy's soft and rounded voice change to the older, raucous ramblings from the rock-edged past of his Avalon and early Sprout days.
To sum up? A great album and a must for collectors, although the real best of Prefab Sprout is in their first two singles and their first five singles, so buy THEM now!

John Birch