Roy 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.

Feud 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 doom:

'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."

Roy Bainton

To see lyrics by The Relatives click HERE




Copyright Gary Fletcher 2009    /    Last updated 24 January 2009