Friday, 4 July 2008
10cc "10 Out Of 10" (1981) (Revised Review)
On which 10cc stop joking just long enough to start crying…
Track Listing: Don’t Ask/ Overdraft In Overdrive/ Don’t Turn Me Away/Memories/ Notell Hotel//Les Nouveaux Riches/ Action Man In Motown Suit/ Listen With Your Eyes/ Lying Here With You/ Survivor (
UK and track listing) US
Well, maybe giving this album a full 10 out of 10 is going a bit too far (about 9 ½ I reckon), but considering this album has lived unloved and unrecognised at the bottom end of 10cc’s discography for years and despite the rather bad pun in the title this is actually an amazingly good record. Deeper than the average 10cc album (albeit all of them are intellectual to some extent, but tend to go for mischief and puns rather than philosophising and out and out emotion), this album carries on from 'Bloody Tourists' in making 10cc more about a beating heart than an emotional funnybone. 10/10 plays it more or less straight for once – or at least at straight as it can when the album contains such a brilliantly peculiar album cover and accompanying song – without sacrificing the band’s I-can’t-work-out-what’s-coming-next arrangements or the classic and unique-to-late-10cc mix of pop, rock and reggae. Painstakingly put together, with sections of songs utilising just about every genre around in the 1970s, it was exactly the sort of well produced eclectic record the world wasn’t waiting for back in the post-punk/new wave world of 1980 and 10/10 is the first 10cc studio record not to have even a vague hit single taken from it, ending an impressive eight album and 11-year run. Over 25 years on, though, the mists have cleared and we can now see 10/10 for the fine record it is – a strong collection of songs put together by two of the best songwriters in the business. It's one of those forgotten albums that was ignored at the time due to bad timing more than anything else (the world moved on during the year out forced on the band after Eric Stewart's car crash in 1979 and 10cc never quite caught up; but then they didn't need to - it was the musical landscape that was 'wrong' to change in this era, not 10cc).
'Ten Out Of Ten' is, at different times, the band's most childlike album (in which adult finances and divorce are a big joke, while this album's metaphor for mankind is Action Man dolls) and their darkest and creepiest ('Survivor' is the tale of a stalker-come-murderer, while 'Les Nouveaux Riches' is perhaps the nastiest 10cc put-down of them all, at least until the dark reunion album 'Meanwhile...' offers nine similarly nasty songs to choose from). Both sides of this album then come to a head in the middle for the hammer horror film-in-music 'Notel Hotel' which also inspired the album cover. Literally out on a ledge, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman try to work out how they can get back into their hotel room after climbing out of their window and threatening to jump (or at least Graham is, Eric is reading the paper). The crazy goings on inside the building on the back cover though suggest they’re better off staying where they are, however, what with gangsters on the loose and all (the lift points to the 10th floor, by the way, a pun on both the album title and the band’s name that you might have missed). The band are leaping off into the unknown, which is dark and scary and most likely painful, trying to leave the madcap humour of their past behind (or something like that; don't look at me, this is a Hipgnosis cover so anything goes!) The idea of the song is kind of that life is like being stuck in a hotel elevator where you never quite know what part of humanity you might get mixed up with next.
Which kind of gives you an idea of where this album is coming from. By now Eric has had time to recuperate from the car crash that nearly killed him two years earlier - leaving with a damaged eye and ear for some time afterwards that made making music, especially loud music impossible. After trying to desperately make a 10cc-sounding album in 'Look Hear' in 1980 which didn't quite work, no one is expecting big things from this LP. That means that Eric can, for the first time, pour out his heart on all the big things that him during his spell in intensive care: that being 'real' mattered more than being wild and wacky, that true love mattered more than hit records and touring the world and that a person is the sum of their memories. Eric is in nostalgic, fragile mood across this album and offers up songs of depth and emotion that those who'd been used to his sillier, wackier side would have found surprising. Though this new writing 'style' will reach its peak with next and final 10cc album 'Windows In The Jungle' (a work that basically says 'I nearly died with my sense of priorities so wrong - why are we wasting time when we should be living?!'), but if you're hearing these albums in order this is the biggest leap without any of the usual 10cc twists and turns or wordplay going on. Not that Graham is very far behind - for perhaps the only time in the original 10cc canon ('Mirror Mirror', the two-solo-albums-for-the-price-of-one reunion record is a special case) he gets an equal share of the writing and singing. His songs too are a lot deeper than the average 10cc song and sound like they're trying to put a brave face on things: the horror of losing out financially in 'Overdraft In Overdrive' may be turned into a joke with a silly and unlikely punch-line but it's a nightmare song until we reach that point. Ditto 'Don't Ask' which tries to make fun over the fact that the narrator is now fending for himself and gets scared at night, but which is at heart another howl of pain unheard on the Godley-Creme era records ('How do you survive? By staying alive!' must be the most painful 10cc chorus ever). Even 'Action Man In Motown Suit' and 'Lying Here With You' aren't quite the simple and cute love songs they start off sounding like.
Eric Stewart was pretty much always on good form in the 1970s and provides plenty of his hook-laden rockers and sweet intimate ballads. After Kevin Godley and Lol Crème left the group in 1974 he’d been working ridiculously hard to keep the band’s hit formula going – providing lead guitar, lead vocals and the bulk of the songs on the band’s last three LPs and much of the credit for the band’s late-period renaissance should got to him. On this album, however, Graham Gouldman is his equal, matching his song-writing partner’s efforts with the same number of songs for once, rather than providing his usual deeply impressive but brief cameos such as Dreadlock Holiday. The amount of Gouldman vocals on the album has increased too - always a sign of a good 10cc album – although it’s a shame that the once world-beating six-piece that played on the last two albums are down to a trio by this collection (and only the two original members are on the cover). There’s no way of getting round it – both the band and the record label felt the band to be unravelling before their eyes and were no longer willing to bankroll them as in the glorious days of old (those wonderful 10cc gatefold sleeves have come to an end by now too, which is especially sad given how 10cc-ish this cover is and how much more humour the band could have got out of their Fawlty Towers-ish role-play). This album died an inglorious death on its first release and has remained pretty unfashionable in the years since, receiving a limited release in 2006 (no prizes for guessing you had to import it from Japan, 10cc's biggest market) and a thankfully more available version in 2014, with bonus tracks which came out the same time as 'Windows In The Jungle's first CD appearance. Seriously, why did it take so long for two albums by one of the biggest bands of the 1970s to end up on CD? (Heck, you can even get Monkee Mike Nesmith’s ultra-rare album of big band instrumentals The Wichita Train Whistle Sings on a shiny disc these days and it used to be so rare you pretty much had to know the singer to be in with the chance of owning a copy!) The rest of the band, though are in disarray: after the failure of 'Look Hear' and the falling ticket sales it simply wasn't practical to have a six-piece band anymore and sadly the under-rated Paul Burgess (who plays out of his drumskins on this album) and Rick Fenn play their last here, with Duncan O'Malley and Stuart Tosh already gone. If 'Ten Out Of Ten' has a flaw then it's the one that everyone always points out: this album isn't quite to the all-in-the-same-room performance levels of 10cc albums past and often feels like the sound of a group of session musicians rather than a 'band' (even if it was recorded, like the others, at the band's pair of Strawberry Studios in Surrey and Stockport.
There's a feeling of contrasts and leaving past ‘masks’ behind to become your true self is something of a running theme for this album. Several of the narrators on this record are trying to become someone completely different to their more recognised selves, whether it’s the poor trying to become rich, the rich trying to become poor, businessmen becoming action heroes or - by contrast - narrow-minded rock guitarists off-handedly dismissing sitars because they don’t want to dilute what works best for them (although that same person tells us to ‘listen with your eyes’ so maybe he’s a bit confused too). Everybody has changed personality on this album and life feels uncertain. That's kind of the cover too: people driven to the brink of doing something desperate they wouldn't normally do by the strain of the madhouse inside. 10cc have never sounded quite so desperate or ready to jump before: The opening narrator of 'Don't Ask' for instance is in heavy denial: yeah sure he's coping, when he's not having nervous breakdowns that is. 'Overdraft In Overdrive' is a man driven to distraction by money worries who has plainly never worried about anything like this in his life before - thank goodness for the unlikely finale where he inherits the family mine (Yeah, sure, that happens to me all the time?!) which prevents this from being the saddest 10cc song of them all. 'Don't Turn Me Away' has the narrator wondering why his loved one is out on a limb and no longer talking to him. 'Memories' sighs over the changes that have taken place in life since childhood, with a wisftulness rather than the usual 10cc whimsy. 'Notel Hotel' is much like the cover, dealing with the seedier side of human life that goes past without us noticing. 'Les Nouveaux Riches' has people 'pretending' to do the posh things other rich people do without really embracing any of it. 'Action Man In Motown Suit' is another tale of disguises and people being different from what they seem, a macho man trying to pull off a cool dude posture. 'Listen With Your Eyes' is, as the title suggests, a little mixed up and makes out that we're using our 'wrong' senses that give us false readings. 'Survivor' too is a very different song than the laidback approach of the music would suggest - this narrator is a stalker, a possible murderer, playing cool as he tries to make his girl submit to his whim. All these characters are mad - or nearly mad - but it's a different kind of madness to the (usually) bonkersness of 10cc albums past, it's a very real it-could-happen-to-all-of-us mad that takes us from financial and marital strains through to murder and posession. Many late-period 10cc narrators sound like a fish out of water, with their characters increasingly confused as the natural landscape around them gets more and more bizarre and out of control (this album has clearly taken the idea of 'Dreadlock Holiday' with its naive narrator as a template, if not the sound), but here the wackiness is restricted to the lyrics – melodically pretty much all of these songs are 10cc at their effervescent shiny best.
It seems that, for far too long, people have been trying to write the last two 10cc albums 'off'. That started as early as the month of release when record label Warner Brothers baulked at the slow sales in Europe on the Mercury label (10cc were on two labels at once at the time, which got confusing but hadn't been a problem till now) and convinced the band to have a re-think before the album was released, much delayed, in America. For this they brought in whizz-kid Andrew Gold who was big new after the success of his single 'Lonely Boy' and brought his own wild humour to three songs released only on the inferior American copy: the postmodern 'We've Heard It All Before!' (which is a bit rude given that 10cc had never done an album like this before...), 'The Power Of Love' and 'Tomorrow's World Today'. While far more in keeping with the 10cc of old, these songs really don't fit - especially when replacing some of the better tracks like 'Action Man In Motown Suit' (ok perhaps not so much 'Lying Here With You' or 'Survivor'). This is an act that will have major repercussions: Gouldman was so entranced by the charismatic but chameleon Gold's natural update of the old 10cc sound for the new age that he even asks him to join the band (Gold, already a solo star, ummed and ahhed and eventually said no on the advice of his manager). The pair start hatching plans for 'Wax' from almost the minute this album flops in the charts and Gold and Gouldman will prove to be a good match for each other. Eric, though, is less amused: he's been steering 10cc towards something more meaningful, like a film noir movie, and there's some young upstart trying to turn his hard work into a cartoon? (You may notice that Graham takes the lead on two of these songs - and, erm, Andrew sings lead himself on 'Before'). So for the benefit of our American readers, this is why 'your' version of 'Ten Out Of Ten' is so schizophrenic (and should perhaps have been re-named 'Six Out Of Ten'). Eric and Graham never intended it to end up like that and the old 10cc would never have dared to have allowed themselves to have been bullied in this way. It also makes for a pretty funny parallel with the album cover: just when Eric and Graham think they've escaped the 'jokes' of the past there they are at the door again, pushing them into commercial freefall...
Listen to this album’s hidden treasures, however, and it seems that both the fed-up record company and shoulder-shrugging band are wrong: freed of their obligations to produce world beaters the two songwriters gave up trying to sound like their gloriously wacky former partners Godley and Crème and came up with an album full of the duo’s strengths: collection of gloriously constructed pop songs written straight from the heart which are ear-catching production-wise but subtle in the moving stories that they tell. If Eric and Graham had dropped the name and gone for something else (Veryhotlegs?) they might have had a better chance with this album, which is just as good as (if not a little better still) than some of the old 10cc albums - this album gets close to ten out of ten for the usual songwriting, performances and ideas, it's just the timing that loses this album marks with an introverted serious album by 10cc exactly what the world didn't need in 1981. Hopefully everyone has realised that the world really does need 'Ten Out Of Ten' by 2014 and if not then, soon? After all, what other album (even by 10cc) contains such delicious metaphors as 'Action Man In Motown Suit', the emotional punch of 'Don't Turn Me Away', the cooing nostalgia of 'Memories', the defensive heartbreak of 'Don't Ask', the uncomfortable hilarity of 'Overdraft In Overdrive' and the downright peculiar tale of 'Notel Hotel'. Not everything on this albums works by any means ('Listen With Your Eyes' and 'Survivor' make the end of the record a struggle), but I'd stay at this strange, emotionally fragile yet determined and brittle hotel anytime, even with such peculiar neighbours trying to push you to the edge of madness.
Don’t Ask is – jolly backing vocals aside – one of the most ‘serious’ tracks 10cc had recorded up to that point. Unusually Gouldman tackles the lead vocal on a joint written Stewart-Gouldman song (all the songs on the album are credited like that by the way, although it seems likely that the member singing lead wrote the main part of the song) and it’s a sort of surly elder brother of I’m Not In Love, with that song’s self-denial narrator further on down the road after that relationship has fizzled out, this time in denial that his dream-girl has left him. The narrator’s denials break down a bit quicker on this track, however, with some sweet observations such as revealing that he leaves the landing light on every night in case his partner decides to come back and replying to the jolly backing vocals question’ how do you survive?’ with a wail of ‘I’m staying alive’. The arrangement is like hearing a sinister arrangement of The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends with its jangly catchy pop tune and call and response vocals, although its uncharacteristic right-on-the-edge-of-feedback guitar solo from Eric Stewart hints at the darkness of the song. Interestingly Stewart’s future collaborator Paul McCartney revived the theme on his track My Brave Face from his Flowers In The Dirt album, coming up with a similar hybrid of pop bounciness and raw hurt, with the narrator in similar denial about the fact that his partner might not be coming back. A fine track, mixing the best of the old and new 10cc, this song finds the band at the height of their last-gasp zenith.
Overdraft In Overdrive appears on first hearing to be more like the 10cc of old, a jokey song with one of those annoying bright and breezy Carribean riffs and a comic twist at the end which gives the song a nice safe happy ending. But the bits sandwiched in-between and the despairing Gouldman vocal (weird that Graham should get two lead vocals close together – in the olden days he was lucky if he got two vocals on a whole album!) take the song somewhere else, with its tale of a poverty-stricken worker with debt collectors knocking at the door tackled with genuine pathos behind all the witty lines. As if to ram the point home, the song suddenly lurches from its jolly rhythms into the minor key on the middle eight and a straightforward cry of desperation changes the mood completely, subtly shifting from using comedy to tell a serious subject to using comedy to hide from a serious subject (‘I started from nothing and worked my way down…’). Suddenly the whole song is different: Stewart’s gloriously rocky competitive lead vocal is suddenly the epitome of friendly supportive harmony, the synthesised backing is less nagging and far more dreamlike and the narrator is no longer cutting off his lines abruptly with a joke but mournfully spreading them out, holding onto the notes as if they are the only thing to hold on to in his suddenly topsy-turvy world of debt collectors at the door and unpaid bills cluttering up his doormat. The middle eight’s closing wordless wail, unusual for the generally reserved Britishness of 10cc, sounds pretty intense too, breaking down the narrator’s composure completely – only for him to regain his pride when, in true 10cc fashion, he suddenly inherits a goldmine from an uncle he never knew he had. Bizarre.
Don’t Turn Me Away is a typically strong and moving ballad from the pen of Eric Stewart and features some lovely synthesiser work (no that’s not an oxymoron – not in this case anyway) on a song that deals with another unusually serious subject. The narrator is doing his best to convince a friend to talk about their problems after they suffer what sounds like a nervous breakdown, despite the fact that they seem to have cut off communications with him entirely along with everybody else in their life. Sounding like exactly the sort of friend you need in a crisis, Eric’s vocal does the song proud, keeping the song light and pleasantly hummable while sounding grandfatherly chiding and un-mistakenly worried throughout the song. The track then switches back into full throttle rocker mode on the middle eight, where some anger suddenly creeps into the song and we think this kindly narrator is finally going to break, only to get a typically 10cc rejoinder (‘When you find out where your heart is let me know…’ sings Stewart in a huff, before adding ‘because I’ll be waiting for you’) . With the sort of lovely cascading tune 10CC rattled off in their sleep during the 1970s and some fine band harmonies, this song would surely have been in with a good chance of becoming a hit single if the band had recorded it in their heyday and it belongs to a fine tradition of Eric Stewart-sung ballads that date right back to Groovy Kind Of Love with the Mindbenders. Even without single status, however, this seemingly personal letter delivered via the record business rather than the Royal Mail (it’s a tie as to which method is quickest these days) still hits the spot.
Memories – written the year before Lloyd Webber’s similar song from his musical Cats and with more than a dollop of similarities between the two (hmmmmm, let’s just leave it at that for now) – is another lovely Eric Stewart ballad with a clever stark piano lick that sums up the bittersweet practice of reminiscing. Admitting that he never thought to question a past relationship at the time despite his worries, the narrator in this song does his best to recall a time when his last romance seemed utopian-like and work out what went wrong. After a strong, unusual opening with a rather mournful piano lick, the song goes a bit more where you expect it to, with some everyman-regretful verses and a typically 10cc sweet and sour but undeniably bouncy mock-reggae chorus, tugging at your emotions of happiness and sadness all at the same time. It’s the song’s tag though that really brings a lump to the throat: backed by a mournful Stewart guitar and one of the best riffs 10cc ever wrote, full multi-tracked harmonies mournfully read out a list of memories from happier times that the narrator seems to be going through on automatic pilot, as if he’s been through the list several times before looking for clues: “Photographs, faded photographs, holidays, summer holidays, first love, broken promises, throw them away, I’m going back to yesterday”. The sudden reversion back to the opening mournful synthesiser lick is one of the most chilling moments in the band’s canon, tapping into the loneliness and despair waiting for the narrator when he has put down his photographs and gone back to living in the present. Successfully skirting its way through three distinct sections (fear, happiness and warm nostalgia), Memories is the quirky 10cc of old at their best – and quite possibly the new heartfelt and honest 10cc at their best as well.
Notell Hotel is the joker in the pack, a move away from singer-songwriter angst and back to the role-playing musical style of 10cc’s earlier tracks – particularly the witty Un Nuite In Paris, the moving Don’t Hang Up and the witty and moving I’m Mandy, Fly Me. As if carrying on where they left off five or so years before, everything has changed for the atmosphere of this track: Stewart’s vocal has gone from warm emotion to tongue-in-cheek pastiche, the backing harmonies have gone back to being silly and even the synthesisers sound suspiciously perky suddenly. But even this seemingly innocent song, which mixes stories from every spy story you’ve ever heard with a Fawlty Towers-like hotel where you never know what is going to happen next, has a strangely mournful synthesiser riff at its heart and a definite lurk of menace hiding behind each of the hotel’s doors. Stewart’s sudden reversion back to his pop voice makes it clear that we’re supposed to be laughing rather than crying during this song (there’s even a typically 10cc moment when some silly backing vocals come in out of nowhere and sing ‘cover up and intrigue’ as if laughing at the narrator’s suspicions, not to mention the worried phone-call from the hotel receptionist - who sounds suspiciously like Gouldman - asking the singer if everything is OK). However, the sudden switch to melancholia going on in the line ‘turned-up raincoats, secret agents…’ is among the most mournful passages of the whole record, as if Stewart’s narrator is joking at his paranoia – even though in his heart of hearts he’s convinced something is going on behind his back and he’s desperate to know what it is. Many 10cc songs begin and end like you’re in a carnival, all bright lights and whooping sound effects with the real core of the song hide somewhere in the middle, but this one seems to be going out of its way to prove the opposite – this generally silly song is book-ended by a scary sinister lick that wouldn’t be out of place in a moody black and white war film (even though the straightforward middle bit is nothing less than an Ealing Comedy).The song even ends on a full-minutes’ worth of this tune played on a synthesiser solo, a sound that’s a world away from the fun and frivolity of the song’s first section. No wonder the band are staying up on the roof on the album’s mock up hotel front cover – I don’t think I’d want to go back inside either after hearing what’s going on here! However the band cleverly hedge their bets as to whether they are simply keeping out of the way of some harmless fun and frivolity or whether something more sinister might be checking in and unpacking its bags, leaving it up to the listener to decide..
Les Nouveaux Riches starts side two with another jolly riff and more mock-reggae in the Dreadlock Holiday style. Like that song, the narrative follows a
resident on holiday in an unfamiliar climate, but this time the main character is female and the song is more about class than culture. Whereas Dreadlock followed someone nervously pretending to be one of ‘the gang’ when he meets a bunch of bullies who want to steal the chain round his neck, this song’s rich holiday lass mixes more happily with ‘the poor’ around her hotel swimming pool, losing her airs and graces as the holiday wears on. There’s even a cinematic hint or three that this socialite is turning into a quite character before our ears without her usual society cronies to spend the time with, most notably the sunburn that causes her skin to turn from ‘lilywhite to raspberry’, with the girl’s insides changing along with her outsides. Unusually, there is no real 10cc sting in the tale this time around (even the nagging and slightly dismissive chorus ‘You know the nouveux riches when they talk in circles…’ is more a gentle tease than a critical onslaught). You even feel sorry for the girl when she has to go back home and go back to being her respectable self while her new friends stay behind to carry on the party, something which sounds positively intoxicating judging by the calypso backing. Eric Stewart’s Jamaican accent is not as disrespectful as some 10cc attempts (I’m thinking the awful patois in the song How’m I Gonna Say Goodbye? in particular here) and the steel drum lick is spot on. However, without the bite or emotional impact of the other songs on this album, Les Nouveaux Riches can’t help sounding a bit poorer than the other songs on offer and its tale of frivolity on an album surrounded by struggling poverty-line narrators makes it sound even more empty-headed than it normally would. UK
Action Man In Motown Suit is one of those songs only 10CC could have written, a serious song masquerading as comedy, with some terrible puns and dodgy rhymes fitted into a rather deep song about how we are often completely bewildered by the life we have created for ourselves, one usually built by accident rather than design. ‘We all have our own paths to follow’, goes the chorus, ‘and shouldn’t struggle and strain to be something we can never be or we’ll just make ourselves look stupid’. Thanks for that, guys. Thematically, this song follows on neatly from the last track and switches from a would-be businessman who can’t sit still at his desk because he longs to be out there saving the planet to a dig at bands who get into music for the fame not the creation – ‘you can’t blow your horn if you ain’t blue’ indeed. Gouldman and Stewart swap leads on this schizophrenic song and it’s a shame they didn’t do that more often, as Graham’s wistful verses complement Stewart’s rocking choruses very well. The song’s opening beautiful melody also makes for a great contrast with the one-note rocking chorus, with the combination between thoughtfulness and action making the song far more than the sum of its parts.
Listen With Your Eyes is one of the album’s weakest tracks, one of the half-baked rockers that seem to fill up a lot of the later 10cc albums and rather undo the idea suggested by the last track that 10cc are in the music business because they’re just so suited to the art-form that they can’t help but be anywhere else. This song features some clichéd lyrics about a tunnel-visioned rock musician who prefers guitars to sitars and doesn’t have time for anything he can’t rock to. At first you think this is going to be another of this album’s songs about being in the wrong place, but no – so sure is the rather pig-headed narrator that his likes and dislikes are right and everybody else’s are wrong that he sounds only too sure about his place in the world. 10cc recorded several variations on this theme but thankfully mainly kept them for B-sides apart from this (Nothing Can Move Me (Like My Rock and Roll Do) is perhaps the best example). This song’s sudden switch in genre, from a lot of sweet ballads to a 50s retro sounding rocker, is a nice idea though and Stewart’s guitar work again shows what a fine and under-rated player he was (and still is when not in semi-retirement as he is these days).
Lying Here With You is a return to the big ballad, but unusually for this band it’s piano rather than guitar or synthesiser-based and – even more unusually – its sung straight throughout without a twist in the tale. Gentle and romantic, with some nice low-mixed strings in the background, its undoubtedly one of Stewart’s prettier songs – but annoyingly, its one that any good composer with an ear for melody could have written rather than an oddball 10cc classic. Like Gilbert O’Sullivan’s tales of love addiction on the last album review (what was in the air in 1980?!), this song finds Stewart denying that he could ever have too much of a good thing and can’t get the girl of this song out of his mind. Again, there’s a brief mention of this album’s theme of a narrator sticking to his guns and being himself even though everybody tells him he and his choice of partners is wrong, which is a nice subtle link back to this album’s main theme. This is a lovely song but, despite its merits and thematic links to the other songs, it sounds completely out of place on this album and might have been better saved for a solo release (presumably Gouldman isn’t on the track at all, as its certainly Stewart playing the piano this time around ands there isn’t much else on this backing track at all).
The album closes on a sombre note with Survivor, which features some George Harrison-esque slide guitar over a long, lazy opening. When Graham’s voice finally kick in, we get treated to 10CC’s second synthesiser-treated vocals since I’m Not In Love and more gentle catchy romanticism with a fierce rhythmic beat which points forward to the sort of songs Gouldman would go on to make with Andrew Gold in the post-10CC band Wax. So far so ordinary, but with a typically 10CC twist the song folds in on itself and becomes a tight, powerful rocker with words that undercut the romantic image the narrator has been building up in the first half of the song, finally getting round to cutting off the relationship that’s been causing him harm and which he has been plucking the courage up to say throughout most of the song. A terrific guitar solo from Stewart (pretty much the last such solo on a 10CC record, given the transformation that’s about to happen in the band’s career—see review no 86 for more) livens up the song but, unlike most of the previous tracks, you don’t really end up caring all that much about the narrator ‘s problems. A shame about the rather boring fade, too – after 35 minutes of twists and turns I expected the album to go out with a bigger bang than this. Ah well, maybe the Notel Hotel staff ran off with the tapes or something. They were definitely hatching something dodgy at the end of the album’s first side…
10CC can’t quite bring themselves to go fully mainstream on this album, then, but nor did they confine themselves to repeating old formulas long past their sell-by-date. Of all the band’s albums, 10/10 is the only one you could possibly imagine another group daring to cover all the way through aside from Notell Hotel maybe) and with fine songs, exquisite production, note-perfect playing and enough interesting things going on in the arrangements to keep us occupied throughout, maybe that verdict of 10/10 wasn’t so far off after all. A worthy album, let’s hope this one turns up on CD on Ebay some day soon (preferably cheaper than the £36 it costs right now though!)