Then Jerico

First (The Sound of Music)

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With hype building behind a clutch of successful singles, London quartet Then Jerico made its full-length debut in 1987 with the grandiosely titled First (The Sound of Music). The album, mostly produced by Owen Davies, actually featured a sound common in the mid- to late '80s: massive backbeats married to the big guitars that had come back into vogue. Atop it all sat the impassioned, warbling vocals of Mark Shaw, whose haircut and cheekbones made him a strong contender for the U.K.'s leading pinup of the moment. But the group wanted to be seen as a band -- and taken seriously -- and First wasn't about to turn into any crass chart cash in. Somewhat ironically, however, the best songs on the album are the poppiest -- like "Blessed Days," bolstered with synth horns and female backing vocals; the mildly funky "A Quiet Place (Apathy and Sympathy"; and the soulful rocker "The Motive (Living Without You)." Retreating from that territory sometimes brought too much guitar bluster from Scott Taylor and pushed Shaw's voice past the point of pleasurable listening (see "Stable Boy"), while a presentable cover of Roxy Music's "Prairie Rose" sounded like the work of musicians intent on proving their credentials to a doubtful public. But uneven as it is, the best parts of the album are enjoyable enough to make it more than just an '80s novelty, while the three extended remixes (of "Let Her Fall," "Prairie Rose," and "The Motive") appended to the American CD issue add another reason to seek it out.

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