Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is ‘The Sound Of McAlmont and Butler' by McAlmont And Butler.
‘The Sound of McAlmont and Butler’ will go down in history as one of the most marvellous musical accidents the world has ever heard. It was an album of chance born from a scenario worthy of a Dylan lyric, with phrases such as a "simple twist of faith".
It portrayed two men at a loose end with something to prove - angry yet liberated, yearning for new beginnings and new sounds, and perhaps even some sonic revenge.
Following acrimonious exits from their respective bands, Suede and Thieves, Bernard Butler and David McAlmont found themselves in similar yet separate emotional storms.
Butler was the heir apparent to Johnny Marr as the next British guitar god - having jumped or been pushed depending on which paper you read and/or believed - from the biggest band in Britain. McAlmont meanwhile quietly exited Thieves without fanfare or flashbulbs, nonetheless experiencing the same level of fear, freedom, trepidation and excitement as his future foil Butler.
A mutual friend introduced them to each other at the Jazz Café in London, bringing two unique, disparate musical minds together.
And so it came to pass that the velvet-voiced David McAlmont, a singer without a songwriter, and guitar prince Bernard Butler, a songwriter without a singer - each with a sonic limb missing and something to prove - joined forces.
Butler wanted to create one perfect piece of music, a singular timeless piece of pop. He believed he had penned such a piece of music just days after his departure from Suede.
A delicious cacophony of exuberance, strings and guitar - what would later become known as Yes - was created in the perfect storm of McAlmont and Butler’s shared experience. Yes was a 'fuck you' fanfare, a joyful validation of life, lyrically echoing the disco throb of I’m Gonna Get Along Without You Now and I Will Survive.
”So you wanna know me now/ How I’ve been?” Yes wasn’t simply a gay anthem for the ‘90s, it was anthemic in the truest sense of the word. Its applications were never-ending and universal; from first dance at a wedding to break-up sonic blanket and a myriad of scenarios betwixt, Yes fitted the bill and still does.
But ‘The Sound Of McAlmont and Butler’ does not start and end with Yes, far from it. It’s a rich textured record exploring drastically different styles of music including blues, jazz, folk, glam-rock, and of course soul, showcasing McAlmont’s gargantuan vocal range and Butler’s abilities as a composer with and without a guitar.
The Right Thing all but exhales jazz club smoke from your speakers, with atmospheric drums and tremelo slide guitar creating the perfect bed for McAlmont to weave in and out of with his deep dark vocal.
How About You? unbeknownst to Butler delivered subliminal signposts to his later solo work, mixing his trademark guitar squeals with a folk sensibility. The album’s only cover You’ll Lose A Good Thing’s gospel makeover proved the perfect vehicle for McAlmont’s empathetic vocal tone.
It is hard to listen to ‘The Sound of McAlmont and Butler’ and not wonder at times how Butler’s previous vocal foil Brett Anderson would’ve faired with Butler’s post-Suede compositions, especially on the more rockier numbers such as Disappointment and The Debitor. Suede fans would undoubtedly pay good money to find out.
Pondering that question however in no way demeans David McAlmont, for if you remove McAlmont (or Butler) from the equation of this album it undoubtedly loses more than 50% of its impact. Each brought something new to the other’s table. The real magic in ‘The Sound Of McAlmont And Butler’ is how they each reacted to this new source of stimuli, collectively and individually.
In fact, listening to ‘The Sound Of McAlmont and Butler’ leaves you grateful that Butler and Suede parted ways. A world without You Do and Yes...well I’m sure Richard Oakes would agree with me when I say you can keep it.
Now if we could just get the Bond people to come to their senses and give McAlmont and Butler the gig on a permanent basis the interval of disappointment would finally, come to an end.