Pete Atkin began writing songs with Clive James (yes, the Clive James) in 1967 and back in the day made half a dozen albums of their collaborations ranging from the sophistication of The Road Of Silk to the silliness of the contract-fulfilling Live Libel. Silly it may be but I still think ‘Black Funk Rex’ is a great song but that’s neither here nor there. With James’ health failing, The Colours Of The Night is probably their swansong.
Pete is reunited with Chris Spedding, who appeared on some of the original albums, with a small band comprising the keyboards of co-producer Simon Wallace, Steve Pearce on bass and drummer Ian Thomas. A couple of guests are brought it to add textures to some tracks. The result is an album of sophisticated songs – James’ lyrics are masterpieces of economy and Atkin’s experience of writing tunes for them means that nothing jars. Take ‘I Know The Way’. It describes the end of a relationship, if the relationship ever really began, in three verses and a bridge with Wallace evoking the sound of a hotel lounge pianist and Thomas playing slightly cheesy drums to paint a perfect soundscape of faux-sophistication.
The title track and ‘Last Ditch’ share a lyric in very different songs – a disagreement about the original setting – and neither is the original title. We’re invited to guess what it was and I think it may have been ‘Here We Stay’. The songs have a military theme: the Berlin Wall springs to mind but we’re not told which side the narrator is on. ‘Last Ditch’ employs John Trenchard’s piccolo and Thomas’ martial drums to put a defiant spin on the words.
James’ satirical wit is not in evidence in these songs although the cynicism of the closing ‘Me To Thank’ makes up for that. “I’ve got to wear a diving suit to find my self-esteem” – that’s just brilliant. The Colours Of The Night is not a record to take lightly – as it was back in the day, it’s OK to sit and study the lyrics while you listen.
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Artist’s website: www.peteatkin.com
There is precious little live footage of Pete but this set from October 2013, although less than technically perfect, begins with ‘The Beautiful Changes’ from The Colours Of The Night and you get a whole half hour of him: