Mark-Almond ‘Other People’s Rooms’ (Horizon/Universal) 3/5

mark-almondFirst of all the pairing of Jon Mark and Johnny Almond should not in any way be confused with Marc Almond of Soft cell fame. That caveat completed, this British duo migrated to the west coast of the United States after forming in the UK in 1971 and both were formerly members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. However, the tone here is more Steely Dan with a jazz and pop sensibility that might just place them in that most obscure and unusual of musical categories, ‘Too slow to disco’ and in this respect the sound is not dissimilar to either Boz Scaggs circa 1976, or to a lesser extent Michael Franks. Top session musicians are on board for this outing with Steve Gadd on drums, Will Lee on bass, John Tropea on guitar and orchestrations by Claus Ogerman, with Tommy Li Puma in overall production control. The whispered vocals from Mark on ‘You just like a girl again’ are a treat and sensitive keyboards (courtesy of Leon Pendarvis)and percussion (RaLph MacDonald) are topped off by a Getz-like saxophone solo from Almond. Ideal summer listening on the languid sounding ‘The city’ may just be the strongest cut on the album while Michael Franks is evoked on the gentle approach to ‘Girl on table’. Thereafter the second half of the album falls off somewhat in quality and veers more towards pop. An uptempo pop-funk number, ‘Lonely people’ rises above the mire and the Franks’ penned, ‘Vivaldi’s song’ with string-driven intro develops from a slow piece into a mid-tempo bossa with Ogerman production omnipresent. Enough of a one-off lost artefact to attract the attention of more discerning music lovers in search of lesser known grooves and an album that sums up the best and worst of mid-1970s music.

Tim Stenhouse