Robert Ellis Orrall

Special Pain

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Two years after his Why-Fi/RCA debut, Fixation, the sound of Robert Ellis Orrall here is much more polished, as is the look, and it is all ready for prime time. "Tell Me If It Hurts" kicks off this maxi-EP; a great cover photo of the singer has him looking ever so serious, and the music is just that, with the title of the disc, Special Pain, taken from a line in the opening song. Roger Bechirian's production is much more contemporary than that which Joshiah Spaulding got on Fixation; there is more depth, with the group sounding like the Fixx, whose "Saved By Zero" was out this same year (maybe the EP should have been called FIXXation 2!). The guitar is grittier, the saxophone subdued, and David Stefanelli's drums rock like that other famous Boston drummer named David, David Robinson of the Cars. It's a major progression for the group, and it's too bad "Senseless" wasn't a big, big hit, but that's OK because "I Couldn't Say No," a duet with Carlene Carter, was. Producer Bechirian worked with Carter's one-time husband, Nick Lowe, as well as Elvis Costello, the Monkees, Wang Chung, and others. He also produced Carter's C'est C Bon album this same year, 1983. The amusing thing is that, where Fixation copped Costello in many ways, the band found itself working with that artist's engineer/producer and came off sounding like a Rupert Hine production -- not a bad thing at all. "Facts and Figures" even has that "Saved By Zero" feel; the smart sounds of British pop for a Boston band were just what the doctor ordered. It's great stuff, and a shame it is limited to five tracks of a mini-LP. The hit is an anomaly; it went Top 30 that spring with heavy vocals and a slick pop sound a little different from the rest of this disc, but just as exhilarating.

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