A Step in the Right Direction: Singles, Demos, BBC Live (1983-1984)
US: 29 Jan 2016
UK: 22 Jan 2016
The Post-Mods Are Alright: The Truth’s Early Recordings See New Light
Coming to life just as the Jam was in its death rattle and the Style Council was starting up, the Truth mined the same post-Mod, neo-R&B vibe as Paul Weller and company but not without some level of authenticity. Founding member Dennis Greaves had done time in the straight up R&B unit Nine Below Zero with bassist Brian Bethell, who he tapped to join him in a this new endeavor with pal Mick Lister. They recruited drummer Gary Wallace and organist Chris Skornia and set about recording a series of singles for WEA’s Formation imprint before singing with I.R.S. and riding out the 1980s with a revolving cast of players that left Greaves and Lister as the only constants.
Hardcore fans have long clamored for a comprehensive collection but Greaves was quick to point out that with many different labels involved and at least one of those long defunct there was little hope of such a thing happening. So, this collection isn’t a comprehensive package but instead a glimpse of a particular moment in time when the Truth was issuing its first singles, gigging where it could and making the rounds at the BBC.
So, what we get here is essentially everything the band committed to tape in 1983 and 1984, including those Formation singles. It’s a wonderful treat for fans who’ve long clamored to have these recordings made available. And for those of us who weren’t there the first time? Eh, it’s a bit of tough one.
There’s no doubt that the Truth had an energy that was in sync with the times, not just recalling the Jam and the Style Council, but even suggesting that ol’ Mr. Ray Davies may have been inspired to nick a little of this vibe for his band the Kinks around that time. (A demo of “Come On” could have been a nifty flip side to, say, “Come Dancing”.) The energy that the group must have displayed on stage is almost palpable on numbers such as “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby” and “From the Heart”.
There are some wonderful moments spread across these three discs and they don’t all come in the expected places. Yeah, the singles are enjoyable, especially “A Step in the Right Direction”, which should have been a major hit on American shores at the time but the demos including “Sweet Sensation” and “If I Ever Find Love” are equally remarkable and don’t sound half bad.
But it’s really in the live arena, a place you’d think would mostly satisfy only diehards, that the group seems to shine best and where one feels like the ya-yas are really coming out. “Always on My Mind” and “Beat Generation” (a nice Who-style number) from the second disc are especially riveting and “Is There a Solution?” places the listener right in the room.
Trouble is, no matter what the room, the songs tend to remain the same: The choruses and bridges arrive in the most predictable of places and it becomes rebellion by numbers when taken in all at once. That ultimately fatigues the listener somewhere in the middle of the second disc, making the third one hard to get to.
The coming years would see some near misses with fame in the U.S. and some changes in direction, including a more mature take on songwriting. In the meantime, this is a fun scrapbook for the diehards that could be boiled down to a single disc for curiosity seekers.
The original lineup has gigged in recent years, so perhaps there’s even hope that the group will revisit its glory at a venue near you in the not-too-distant future.
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