"A look under the bonnet" - Mike Rutherford's solo albums by Alan Hewitt.

The recent sad departure of Paul Young has rendered this long overdue look at Mike's solo output all the more poignant but I hope it won't smack too much of "looking through rose-tinted glasses". What follows is an honest appraisal of Mike's recordings outside of Genesis.

Smallcreep's Day - CAS1149/CASCD1149 - 1979 * * * *
Mike's first solo outing was released during the extended break at the end of the band's mammoth world tour in support of the "And Then There Were Three" album. What was more surprising was that it was, at least half of it was a loose concept based around the character Smallcreep and his obsession with what the factory he worked in actually produced (a fascination I have never had with my workplace, folks!). The album itself has all of the obvious Genesis trademarks - lush production and plenty of instrumental versatility. It also showed that Mike's skills as a song writer were maturing with such classics as "Moonshine" and the delightful "Every Road". Well, received by critics at the time, this is still an album that rewards regular listenings even now almost twenty years on - and that take some doing! Click to see full-size picture
Acting Very Strange - WEA K99249/Atlantic 80015-2 (CD) - 1982 * * *
Mike's second solo effort appeared in 1982 and took everyone by surprise mainly because it was afar heavier effort than his previous album and also for his brave stab at singing the songs himself. On occasions this works very well such as on "Maxine" where his anguished raw voice certainly fits the drama of the song an also on the gorgeous ballad "Hideaway". However, not all the tracks are quite so fortunate, and "I Don't Wanna Know" and "Couldn't Get Arrested" should definitely have remained in the out-take bin as far as I am concerned. That said, this album certainly re-established Mike as a writer with his rock sensibilities still intact and that would serve Genesis well throughout the 1980's as a counterbalance to Phil's pop influences. Click to see full-size picture
Mike + The Mechanics - WEA 252 496-1/252 496-2 (CD) - 1995 * * * * *
This is the album that launched Mike as a solo artist. There simply isn't a bad track on this album, from the high drama of "Silent Running" and "A Call To Arms" to the delicious balladry of "You Are The One". Mike's choice of the two Pauls (Carrack and Young) on vocals was inspired and their combined talents helped make this one of the albums of the 1980's for me, and of course, this album has the track which I will always remember Paul Young for - even more so than his work with Sad Café - "All I Need Is A Miracle" - nuff said, really! Click to see full-size picture
The Living Years - WEA WX 203 256004-1/256 004-2 (CD) - 1988 * * * *
The "difficult second album syndrome" was neatly brushed aside by the band with this classy little number which brought the band to the attention of the entire nation and beyond with the teary second single - the album's title cut. There was much more to this effort than that one effort and this one brought a rockier edge to the band with several hard rockin' numbers including the debut single "Nobody's Perfect", "Poor Boy Down" and "Don't"; all of which gave the band plenty of scope for getting an audience going during their first UK/European tour the following year. Click to see full-size picture
Word of Mouth - Virgin V2662/CDV2662 - 1991 * * *
The band themselves admit that this album was a struggle and it does seem to fall into two distinct areas. The tracks that work best in my own opinion are those with a harder edge to them such as the opener "Get Up" and the first single "Word Of Mouth". The more ballad orientated material is a little too polished for me although "Stop Baby" and "My Crime Of Passion" are superb examples of Paul Carrack's talents as a soul singer of the highest calibre. Definitely an album that would have benefited from a live work-out of the material prior to final recording. Click to see full-size picture
Beggar On A Beach Of Gold - Virgin CDV2772 - 1995 * * * * *
I am always loath to say that an album is perfect but this album is! The band managed to cover all their bases completely with this album. I am sure that Mike must have had a wry smile on his face whenever he heard someone whistling the refrain from "Over My Shoulder" which was one of the most played records of 1995. All three of the band fired on all cylinders delivering their most convincing work to date balancing the individual talents of the two singers to perfect effect with Mike delivering the perfect batch of songs for them to work with - simply perfect! Click to see full-size picture
Mike & The Mechanics: Hits - Virgin CDV2797 - 1996 * * * *
Compilations are never my favourite albums and this one is no exception. However given that the band had been one of the best kept secrets of the 1980's their astonishing success in the 1990's deserved nothing less and as an introduction to the band's music for those wonderful people the "floating voter" this is hard to beat. Click to see full-size picture
M6 - Virgin CDV2885 - 1999 * * *
This album didn't quite scale the dizzying heights of some of its predecessors but nonetheless managed to satisfy the fans with its usual mix of pleasant pop. What was sadly lacking here was more of Paul Young - ironic now given his recent death - but true. With the exception of "Whenever I Stop" and "When I Get Over You" there is little sign of Paul on this album. Paul Carrack's star was firmly in the ascendant on this one and much as I admire Mr. Carrack's vocal talents, Paul Young was always the "voice" of the Mechanics for me. Click to see full-size picture

Obviously the current situation with the band is in some uncertainty. Mike had been writing material for a new album and the band had been rehearsing for some live dates in Europe. Whether the remaining members will wish to carry on remains to be seen but no matter what happens, these albums will always be there to be enjoyed and I think that is how Paul would like to be remembered!