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Black


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Mainstream/alternative pop

Status:

Colin Vearncombe died on January 26, 2016. Most recent releases, Blind Faith (2015) and Live 2015 (2015).

See also:

Black/Colin Vearncombe's site

Wikipedia's entry on Black/Colin Vearncombe

Comparisons:

Sam Brown, Robert Palmer, Distant Cousins

Covers/own material:

The albums contain original material only. Tracks have been (co-)written by the performer.

General comments:

Black was at first a band, then became a project of its leader, Colin Vearncombe, also known as Colin Black, a name he adopted so the band name would be less confusing.

My favourite male vocalist is Colin Vearncombe, better known as Black. He had a big hit with Wonderful Life back in 1987, but hasn't been successful since that. He's still recording, on his own independent label nowadays, and I'm anxiously awaiting new material from him. I don't think he's real ecto-fodder—although his music is hard to classify his production is probably too smooth for the liking of most of you, but his voice is just soooo beautiful.... His music is certainly on the poppy side, but his voice is one to melt for. I do. (Marion)

After a few years of relative obscurity, when Black mainly achieved critical acclaim in the music press, and releasing some independent singles, Black signed to WEA in 1984. He released two singles in one year, then experienced a bad year in 1985 after leaving WEA. In this period he wrote the song "Wonderful life", an ironic song lyrically. It was released independently in 1986 with some success. It led to Colin's contract with A&M. In 1987 they released his most successful album to-date, the critically and commercially acclaimed Wonderful life. It was a busy year for Colin from then on, with a world tour, endless promotional work and the process of coughing up a second album. A&M Japan released a four-track mini-album,At the Tokyo Power Station, to testify about the world tour with very nice live versions of tracks from Wonderful life.
     WEA then released the album Black with all tracks he recorded for them, including the remarkable singles "Hey presto" and "More than the sun" and the accompanying extra tracks.
     Comedy is a beautiful album with warm, glowing sounds and filled with nearly bombastic, symphonic sounds, but also silent guitar-based ballads like "Let me watch you make love". It was less commercially attractive, but certainly superior to Wonderful life. His third A&M album Black (indeed bearing the same name as the WEA compilation album) could theoretically have been another multiple platinum album, but failed to attract enough attention. Colin left A&M, displeased with the way they treat him and not quite happy about the lack of promotion of his work.
     1993 saw the return of a new, independent Black, with strange sounds and more experimental tracks on Are we having fun yet?. Combinations of accordions and electric guitars, drumbeats and flutes make this album the least accessible, but the most interesting work of Black to date. His live shows in Germany and Holland in December 1993 were for hard-core fan audiences, and were probably a disappointment for him. Despite this he released "Are we having fun yet?" in the UK and disappeared.
     Colin thought long and hard about his place in the music world, and even considered throwing in the towel. Fortunately, he reconsidered. After a music workshop led by Chris Difford in 1998, he felt inspired again, and recorded his first new album in five years. Released under his own name Colin Vearncombe, The Accused was released in September 1999, starting a whole new era in his musical career.
     Black is an original talent, lyrically very gifted, musically a melody-wizard. His songs are well-crafted and his entire catalogue of songs is filled with magical moments. I have yet to meet anyone who dislikes his music upon hearing it. Most people only know the track "Wonderful life". True, it was a big hit, but judging Black by this one track only would be cruel and unjust. It's a beautiful, timeless track, but it's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. (marcel@kimwilde.com)

Recommended first album:

I would say Are we having fun yet?, since it's Black's most ecto-ish, most experimental and most quirky album, but it's probably hard to find in the U.S. part of the world. Wonderful life should still be available everywhere, though. (marcel@kimwilde.com)

I would definitely recommend Wonderful Life as a starting point (preferably the UK version if you can find it) followed by Are we having fun yet?, then Comedy, and finally the truly uninspired and rather awful final A&M album Black. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

Recordings:

  • Wonderful life (1987, re-released as double CD, 2013)
  • At the Tokyo Power Station (live ep, 1987)
  • Black (c. 1988?)
  • Comedy (1988)
  • Black (1991)
  • Are we having fun yet? (1993)
  • The Accused (1999)
  • Abbey Road live (1999)
  • Water on Snow (2000)
  • Live At The Bassline (2001)
  • Smoke Up Close (2002)
  • Blackleg Volume 1 (official bootleg, 2003)
  • Blackleg Volume 2 (official bootleg, 2004)
  • Two Churches (tour EP, 2005)
  • Between Two Churches (2005)
  • Road to Nowhere (compilation, 2007)
  • CV + Road to Nowhere (2 Disc compilation + live, 2007)
  • Between Two Churches (2005)
  • Water on Stone (2009)
  • The Given (as Colin Vearncombe, 2009)
  • Any Colour You Like (compilation, 2011)
  • EPI (2012)
  • EPII (2013)
  • Blind Faith (2015)
  • Live 2015 (2015)

Wonderful life

Release info:

1987—A&M Records—395165-2

Availability:

Wide on release

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Colin Vearncombe—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Roy Corkill—fretless bass
Dave Dix—keyboard, programming
Doreen Edwards—backing vocals
Martin Green—saxes
Jimmy Hughes—drums
Tina Labrinski—backing vocals
Sara Lamarra—backing vocals
Jimmy Sangster—fretted bass

Produced by:

Dave Dix, Robin Millar

At the Tokyo Power Station

Release info:

1987—A&M Records—D15Y 3249 (Japan)

Availability:

Japan only

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Colin Vearncombe—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Roy Corkill—bass guitars
Martin Green—saxes, guitars
Charlie Griffiths—keyboards, computers, samples
Jimmy Hughes—drums, percussion
Tina Labrinski—backing vocals
Sara Lamarra—backing vocals
Gordon Longworth—guitar, keyboard

Black

Release info:

1988 (?)—WEA Records (vinyl only)

Availability:

Hard to find

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Colin Vearncombe—guitar, vocals

Produced by:

Dave Dickie

Comedy

Release info:

1988—A&M Records—395222-2

Availability:

Wide on release

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Colin Vearncombe—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Peter Adams—keyboards
Martin Ditcham—percussion
Dave Dix—keyboards
Derek Green—vocals
Martin Green—sax
Gavin Harrison—drums
Tina Labrinski—backing vocals
Sara Lamarra—backing vocals
Steve Pearce—bass
Guy Richman—backing vocals
Steve Sidwell—trumpet

Produced by:

Dave Dickie, Robin Millar

Comments:

Not to be confused with the later A&M album, this 7-song collection brings together all the officially released work from the 1984 WEA era. Starting off with the dynamic "Hey presto", a minor hit in the UK, it builds up until the final song, "Butterfly man", a weird, jazz-inspired song with strange sound-effects. This LP also contains "More than the sun", a beautifully orchestrated ballad, "Widemouth", a bouncy rock track and "Stephen", a piano-based, rather emotional song. A very diverse collection of songs, showcasing the strength of early Black. (marcel@kimwilde.com)

Black

Release info:

1991—A&M Records—397126-2

Availability:

Now hard to find

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Colin Vearncombe—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Bob Andrews—hammond organ
Sam Brown—vocals
Pete Davis—keyboards, programming
Martin Green—clarinet, electric guitar, tenor sax
Camilla Griehsel—vocals
Luis Jardim—percussion
Brad Lang—bass
Roy Martin—drums
Gordon Morgan—guitar, backing vocals
Robert Palmer—vocals
Steve Sidwell—flugel horn, trumpet
Rick Taylor—trombone

Produced by:

Robin Millar

Comments:

This did get a release here in Australia—without the booklet contents! There was a lot of friction between Colin and A&M by then anyway, and I suspect the album was made a low priority as a result. It also wasn't especially good, as Colin himself freely admits. Robin Millar squeezed the life out of Black. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

Are we having fun yet?

Release info:

1993—Chaos Reins; distr. by Polygram (Europe) Nero Schwartz (UK)—519354-2 (Europe); crcd9301 (U.K.); D30988 (Australia)

Availability:

U.K., Australia, Europe

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Colin Vearncombe—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Pete Davis—keyboards,programming
Martin Ditcham—percussion
Doreen Edwards—vocals
Camilla Griehsel—vocals
Martin Green—saxes, flutes
Greg Harewood—bass
Martin McCarrick—cello, string arrangements

Produced by:

Mike Hedges & Colin

Comments:

Mike Hedges did two killer production jobs that year. One was the Black album. It was a relief to see the experimentation and quirkiness back on the agenda. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

Further info:

"Sweetest Smile" was used in a 1993 Australian film called Say A Little Prayer, directed by Richard Lowenstein.

"Wonderful life" was used in an insurance commercial in the UK in 1994, and re-released on single that same year, renewing chart success.

"Wonderful life" has been covered by a.o. Tony Hadley (of Spandau Ballet fame) and Matilde Santing.


Thanks to Marcel Rijs for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2016-05-21 19:01:26.
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