Album Review: Speed the Plough – The Plough & the Stars

Here’s a career retrospective from a band that had up to now escaped my notice, despite having a highly-regarded career that spans more than three decades. A gentle folk-laced sound (of the British Isles variety, though the band is form New Jersey) is the hallmark of many of the tunes. The first disc collects seventeen songs from the group’s first four albums (all long out of print), kicking off with the hyponitc “Veszprém.” Shimmering pop with waiflike lead vocals may remind older listeners of Papas Fritas, and younger ones might think of The Corner Laughers.

Electric guitars mesh nicely with flutes, vibes, mandolin and other plucky, acoustic-type instrumentation. “The Roof Is Off (The Stars Are There and It’s Mighty Cold)” suggest what “Girl From Ipanema” might have sounded like had it been written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Speed the Plough seem influenced as much by Dave Brubeck as any pop artist. The tunes are of the sort that will remain in one’s head long after the disc has finished spinning. This collection also features many live tracks and a detailed set of liner notes. For fans of adult pop a la the previously-mentioned indie-pop acts.

Note: Due to an unusually full schedule last week and this week – you wouldn’t believe me if I told you – my posts will be a bit shorter than typical. Once the dust settles, my normal wordy posting will recommence.

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