The Essential Mike Rutherford/Mike & The Mechanics Albums by Alan Hewitt.
With the recent tour by Mike and The mechanics and the prospect of a new album by the band, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the pivotal albums in Mike’s solo career.
Mike’s solo story, like Tony’s began during the hiatus at the end of the band’s massive 1978 tour in support of the And Then There Were Three album and came about as a chance to give Phil the opportunity to try and resolve his marital problems. Fortunately for us, the result was the magnificent Smallcreep’s Day album which was released on 15th February 1980.
A concept album in 1980 was something of a risky undertaking but nevertheless, within the first “Side” of the album told the story in a series of exquisite vignettes which without doubt feature some of Mike’s best compositions. Here we have such gems as Time And Time Again, Every Road and At The End Of The day all of which are deserving of single success. Mike’s choice of Noel McCalla as vocalist was to prove every bit as inspired as some of the ones he made subsequently. The resulting album is quite rightly regarded as one of the very best solo albums from any member of the band and is a must for any fan.
Mike Rutherford: Smallcreep’s Day. Charisma Records CAS149
Synchronicity is a strange thing isn’t it? Within less than twelve months in 1982/83 both Mike and Tony released their second solo albums with Mike’s: Acting Very Strange appearing on 9th September 1982. Once again, like Tony, Mike opted to try his hand at the vocals himself and the result is a mixed bag. When it works, it is a decent effort and tracks such as Acting Very Strange itself and Maxine and Hideaway were particularly strong efforts. Maxine even made it into the set list for Mike’s first gigs as a solo artist but let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Many fans may question my placing this one in a list of “essential” albums but the very fact that Mike tried something different with this one makes it a pivotal album in Mike’s musical development and that of Genesis in my book.
Mike Rutherford: Acting Very Strange. Atlantic Records WEA-K 99249
Mike soon realised that singing was not his forte and so for his next effort he set about enlisting outside assistance to bring his compositions to life. Once again, his choices proved to be inspired and in Paul Carrack and Paul Young he found two of the finest voices in rock. Carrack’s soulful vocals were contrasted superbly with the rock and roll pipes of Young and the resulting album: Mike & The Mechanics was released in October 1985. Featuring the classics Silent Running and All I Need Is A Miracle, this one established Mike’s song writing credentials for a whole new audience. The album even featured one of those legendary Genesis “bits” in the shape of the magnificent A Call To Arms and the album gave Mike’s new “band” success on both sides of the Atlantic and deservedly so!
Mike & The Mechanics: Mike + The Mechanics. WEA Records 252 496-1
Mike’s next outing with The Mechanics was to be the one that set the seal on his international reputation as a solo artist. If the debut Mechanics album had proven that he could cut the mustard outside of Genesis, then the new album: The Living Years, released on 28th October 1988 took the band to an entirely new level. The album’s title track topped the charts around the world and the album itself entered the top ten of the UK album charts. Combining the usual mix of balladry and rock, this was an altogether more satisfying effort that its predecessor and one which has remained a consistent favourite among fans ever since.
Mike & The Mechanics: The Living Years. WEA Records WX 203 256004-1
Six years were to separate Living Years from the next essential Mechanics album but when it came it was to prove to be a sensation. A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold was released on 13th February 1995. Unlucky for some but definitely lucky for Mike as he had struck an unparalleled vein of form with this one. No less than three singles were released from it and they all charted. The band found themselves the darlings of the UK TV chat show round too but more importantly, the band expanded their audience both at home and abroad with extensive touring occupying the band throughout 1995 and 1996 when the subsequent Hits album also reached the UK top ten and saw the release of the Hits promotional video compilation to boot.
Mike & The Mechanics: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold. Virgin Records CDV 2772
1999’s M6 album was to be another pivotal album for the band. Released on 31st May 1999 this one was another excellent mix of well crafted songs although a bit more restrained than its predecessor, it is remembered now as the last album by the band to feature the superb vocals of Paul Young whose untimely death in 2000 was to rob the band and indeed, the world of a top flight performer, this album is a worthy legacy to Paul’s memory.
Mike & The Mechanics: M6. Virgin Records CVD 2885
The band’s most recent album: 2011’s The Road, proved to be another pivotal one for the group. After Paul Young’s death and the lacklustre Rewired album, it looked to outside observers as if The Mechanics had run their course. Thankfully nothing could be further from the truth as once again Mike enlisted the help of a brand new bunch of people to re-ignite the Mechanics brand and once again, his choice of vocalists has proven to be inspired. Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar have slipped neatly into the shoes vacated by Carrack and Young and the album, while being a somewhat restrained effort, nonetheless, still has the Mechanics’ trademarks of song writing craft and vocal excellence as the successive tours since the album’s release have proven. the band are back and the prospect of a new album in the offing, things are looking good for Mike & The Mechanics, the most unlikely of part-time outfits!
Mike & The Mechanics: The Road. Universal Records 88697846912