Tall Stories, by Johnny Hates Jazz
After the success of Turn Back The Clock, which spawned a worldwide smash hit in “Shattered Dreams” and ended up providing follow-up top 20 hits in the UK and even one in the United States, one might think that Johnny Hates Jazz would follow-up their success with another album of sophisticated jazzy pop without any trouble, but no, there was trouble aplenty here. Shortly after the debut album became a smash hit, lead singer Clark Datchler left the band and moved to Amsterdam, and he was replaced by Phil Thornalley, a longtime veteran of the British pop and rock scene. The group had a one-off single and worked on their second album, but it was delayed by label politics which had pressured the group to carry on in the first place, and then two members of the band were involved in a car accident that made it impossible to do very much promotion for the album, and when the sophomore jinxed album was released, it failed to chart anywhere around the world despite two singles. The album flopped and the band broke up, not reuniting to make new music or even play old music for almost twenty-years. But was the album any good? Let’s see.
“Let Me Change Your Mind Tonight,” one of the album’s singles, opens the tight ten-song set, and it serves as a beautiful opener to the album, a reflective and somewhat ominous song. “Money Changes Hands” offers a beautiful cautionary tale about the dangers of financial pressures, a relatable enough subject. “Your Mistake” tells the story of a guy unburdening himself from nice guy syndrome as he talks about someone who only wants to talk to him when something’s wrong without seeking a genuine relationship. “The Last To Know,” the second single from the album, gives a bitter presentation of a love gone wrong where someone is simultaneously the first to get to get hurt and the last to know. “Closer” flips the script on the usual Johnny Hate Jazz song and explores how it is that someone can get closer to someone who has been alienated by previous bad conduct. “Between You And Me” offers a hopeful look at how to pull through in a challenging spot in a relationship, providing a sense of optimism. “Shelter From The Storm” offers a short but lovely take on what one often seeks in love and relationships, namely a safe place from the world’s troubles. “Fool’s Gold” is a lovely if somewhat melancholy reminder that much of what we think is golden in life and love ends up being only fool’s gold. “Keep Me In Mind” and “Now She’s Gone” tell two different sides of a relationship, where in the first case the narrator wants the person to keep him in mind as a potential partner in the future, and in the second the narrator reflects upon a relationship that has ended where someone else is with the person and the first person is congratulating him for it.
Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable album to listen to. It is a bit mystifying that the album did not manage to chart at all upon its release, as it certainly has a lot of the same elements that made Turn Back The Clock an enjoyable listen. Perhaps this album simply fell through the cracks with band and label turmoil as well as the change to a new vocalist, who nonetheless sounded reasonably similar to their previous vocalist, along with the same kind of jazzy and soulful instrumentation that made their debut enjoyable as well. If there isn’t anything here as catchy as “Shattered Dreams,” the album as a whole sits well alongside the band’s previous material and this album’s songs would have made the music of 1991 a bit better, given how roughly that year has been viewed in retrospect. Overall, 1991 wasn’t very kind to bands trying out new vocalists in either Foreigner’s case or Johnny Hates Jazz’s case, and that is a shame, as this is an album worth seeking out if you like their debut. It’s a shame that this album nearly closed the door on the band altogether.