Bainton, freelance music journalist and for many years The Blues
Band's Fan Club organiser, had this to say about The Relatives' CD
Feud of Love, which whilst available to purchase at Blues
Band gigs and via the BB website, was recorded more for fun and "(he)artís
sake" than as a commercial endeavour:
"The term 'Labour of Love'
can be applied to most works of art. If you don't 'love' what you're
making, then why bother? I can vouch for the fact that a lot of love
and labour has gone into this recording, to say nothing of a stream
of disagreement and a dash of familial bile. The Relatives are, if
you don't know it, Gary & Hilary Fletcher. Any collection of songs
which includes in their covering dedication 'Thanks to Betty at
Relate' is going to be nothing if not textured.
First of all, if you are
expecting an R&B record, then this is not for you. The fine-spun,
mature pop music is hard to pin down. All the influences which have
gone into Gary and Hilary's musical marriage get their airing, and
this one of the disc's strong points. Because Gary Fletcher's
background, unlike the rest of The Blues Band, is not the usual
Chicago Blues package, then when Gary plays away from the BB
formula, something very different comes out.
of Love's lyrics, legibly laid out in the 16 page booklet, reveal a
depth of thought, drama and something which today is often sadly
only found in the 'remaindered' bin - a social conscience. Hilary's
spoken verse on The Caring Eighties encompasses the steady atrophy
of our collective social thinking over the past 18 years, and Gary's
Summer Fuss points up all the fears of mature men living in the
nasty 90s ... a fragile positivity against a steep, dark wall of
'Some of us are lucky, some
of us are not
Some of us would kill for what some of us have got ...'
I don't want to make a big
thing of this aspect, because this album is, in the main, a very
personal testimony of a relationship, and in some ways a chronicle
of family life.
Considering the more 'down
home' restrictions of working at the Coalhole Studios in Twickenham,
both the bright and clear production and the multi-layered
instrumental backings illustrate a flair and verve more usually
associated with bands with mega budgets recording in sun-kissed
Caribbean complexes. As we would expect, the bass playing is
excellent, but it is refreshing to hear the other side of Gary with
thoughtful electric and acoustic guitar, and both the drum
programming and use of keyboards are outstanding.
Some of the songs are so
traditionally 'rootsy' in their approach, too; it may be the purity
of Hilary's voice on the opening track, More than just Love,
or even the headily exotic feel of the first few bars of
Dangerous Times, but these songs have stories; these words have
been somewhere before they crept into a microphone.
There's the weary cynicism
which besets the best marriages in Devoted, with the
face-slapping chorus which observes:
'Oh they're devoted
to keeping it going
even though it's already gone ....'
Of course, we're totally
biased here at Ready. But the question is, had I been sent this
album as a total stranger to Gary's other musical work, would it
have passed the playback test. What test? The test that asks you in
two days' time, 'What the hell is that tune/lyric/phrase I can't get
out of my head?' The more I listen to Feud of Love the more
it grows on me. It's got a long, long life as far as we're
concerned, and if you love good, well-crafted music, you'll not buy
a better bargain this year."
To see lyrics by The