When this third of Malcolm's reference books on the Shadows' work dropped onto my doormat earlier this year, I wondered what he might have to say about a period which has found much disfavour with so many fans and commentators. He and I had crossed metaphorical swords about the Rollover output (always in a spirit of friendly academic enquiry), Malcolm belonging to that select bunch who appreciate much of the 1980s material - whilst I invariably took a more traditionalist line.
Once again, the work is laid out clearly, largely in the form of annual surveys of records released between 1980 ("Change Of Address") and 1990 ("Reflection") - in what is now Malcolm's established style. Tellingly, Malcolm gets down to brass tacks in his preface, pointing out that his musical interests - never confined to the Shadows - take in music of the 80s and 90s, and freely acknowledging the influence of his sons in assisting him to retain a youthful approach to the music of the day. It is in the seven-page second part of the lengthy introduction that the main thesis of the book emerges. Within an analytical look at the source material for those ten or so1 albums of the period, Malcolm dissects the oft-repeated complaint that the output was too cover-dependant, and, into the bargain, examines the increasing emphasis on keyboard instruments over the time under discussion.
His verdicts... well, perhaps you'd be best reading most of them for yourself. But Malcolm's conclusions are - as always - arrived at logically and in a scholarly manner - and let us at least disclose the fact that he detects a distinct sociological dimension to the complaints of "too many Belinda Carlisle songs" and "too many synthesisers". It would indeed take someone with Malcolm's open-minded approach to modern pop music to recognise much of worth in, say, Walk Of Life or Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You - but then, I bring that in from a different sociological perspective, M'Lud...
One visible departure from the style of Malcolm's previous Shads-related books: this one has pictures! As well as several groups of pages of contemporary live action shots, LP/CD sleeves are featured (a great help when identifying albums), as are a selection of intrrnational releases.
For anyone halfway serious about the Shadows, this is yet another essential purchase from the pen of one of the world's most respected commentators.
1 It is difficult to decide how to enumerate the Shadows' Polydor/Rollover albums. Several ostensibly original collections (eg, "XXV" and "Moonlight Shadows") contained track already released on other sets - and then there are "Live At Abbey Road" and "The Shadows At Their Very Best" to be considered...
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