What do you do when your one-off project turns out to be more successful than you anticipated? Such was the case for the political jazz-pop band Working Week; their debut single, “Vencenermos (We Will Win)” was a tribute to Victor Jara that featured vocals from Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn and the legendary Robert Wyatt. The nine-minute song was a surprise hit, and as such, the band quickly put together a debut album, the superb Working Nights, a promising collection that showed the talents of guitarist Larry Stabbins, saxophonist Simon Booth, and vocalist Juliet Roberts.
Compañeros, their follow-up, would appear a year later. Though quickly produced and written—the trio really hadn’t expected the successful reception of their debut, and thus came up with the album in a whirlwind two-week period—it doesn’t suffer a bit from it; if anything, the album has an urgency and immediacy that adds depth to the material. Even as the trio faced pressure from their record label to produce commercial singles, the band stood firm in their political stance, handing in superb socially conscious songs like the anti-Apartheid number “South Africa” and “Friend (Touche Pas à Mon Pote).” Less political numbers such as the upbeat “Dancing In Motion” and groove-laden “Soul Train” sit nicely with more thoughtful, mellow numbers “King Of The Night” and “Touching Heaven.” Also superb is the album opener, a cover of Captain Beefheart’s Clear Spot highlight, “Too Much Time.”
But what really makes this reissue of Compañeros delightful is the second disc of remixes. While many remixes of the era suffer from dated production techniques and devotion to trendy sounds, for a band such as Working Week, the twelve-inch side gave the band to stretch out their songs even further, to play around with arrangements, and to give the listener a taste of what their electric live sets must have felt like. “Too Much Time” is the song most explored, as is “Soul Train.” Even more exciting are two live recordings of Working Nights highlights, “No Cure, No Pay” and their cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.”
Though Compañeros didn’t perform as well as Working Nights did, it was still well-received critically and was a superb outing from a promising young trio. Roberts would appear on the band’s next album, Surrender, and then embark on a successful singing and production career, while Stabbins and Booth would continue on with Working Week, releasing two more albums before folding the band in 1991. Still, Compañeros was a fine collection of jazz and pop, a superb album for its day and a jewel that still sparkles and delights three decades later.
Compañeros is available now from Cherry Red.
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