Album Reviews

Fairground Attraction: The First Of A Million Kisses (Cherry Red)

 

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Fairground Attraction
The First Of A Million Kisses
Cherry Red

Fairground Attraction was one of the more unusual British success stories, a roots-rock group who found success with simple, heartfelt melodies that were slightly incongruous during the era of metal, bubblegum pop, and the druggy underground music scene of the late Eighties. The First Of A Million Kisses, their debut album, would subsequently be their own album, as the band—consisting of vocalist Eddi Reader and songwriter Mark Nevin—imploded almost as quickly as they appeared.

 

The band formed in the mid-80s, and quickly signed to RCA, based on the group’s strong, superb demo recordings, which would form their debut album. The First Of A Million Kisses is a gorgeous album that defies classification. Part folk, part rock, part country, Reader’s voice blends in perfectly with the diverse arrangements, which can go from traditional country (“Perfect,” “Moon On The Rain,” “Walking After Midnight”), Cajun-flavored shuffles (“Find My Love”), New Orleans jazz (“Claire,” “The Moon Is Mine”) to moody, stark acoustic ballads (“Falling Backwards,” “Whispers,”). It’s a rare album; aside from Everything But The Girl, no other British groups were trading in this kind of jazz/pop/country/folk hybrid and having any kind of success.

Ah, success. Success came quickly—perhaps too quickly. Their debut single, “Perfect,” was a delightful country-pop number and surprisingly shot to number one. When the album was released a month later, it also quickly went to the top of the charts, peaking at number two, and became a certified double platinum album. It would also do well internationally; while not achieving the same heights as it did in England, The First Of A Million Kisses was well-received enough to warrant a world tour, and its reception proved promising for the band’s future; here was a group on the verge of international success.

But the pressures were too much. By 1990, the band was over; Nevin left the band to focus on his songwriting career, while Reader embarked on a solo career of her own. The band had started working on new material; songs written for the second album were being performed live—these songs appear as bonus tracks, having been recorded on the Japanese leg of their world tour and taken from a rare Japanese-only live album that was released in 2003—and show that in spite of the split, the material was quite promising. RCA, in the wake of an extremely successful band’s sudden split, cobbled together Ay Fond Kiss, a collection of outtakes and the band’s B-sides—largely revelatory covers of songs that influenced them, like “Mystery Train,” “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” and “You Send Me”–and released it as their posthumous second album, with a take of Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” released as their farewell single.

It’s a shame that Fairground Attraction imploded so quickly, because The First Of A Million Kisses is a delightful album, and thirty years on its pleasures and delights still sound fresh. This collection offers plenty of evidence that had they not split so suddenly, world domination might not have been out of the question.

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