Nik Kershaw has written dozens of should have been huge hits. I discovered him in my youth--AKA the 1980s. His first two releases "Human Racing" and "The Riddle" were in constant rotation on my boom box tape player. That's right--Cassettes! But amazingly his later work, CDS from the last decade holds as equally important place in my music collection.
"Human Racing" is a magical debut full of tightly, well constructed 1980s synth pop and a rich lyrical depth not seen in pop music at the time. It not only features the hit "Wouldn't It Be Good," but danceable gems "I Won't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "Dancing Girls" and "Gone To Pieces." Plus the ode to a film legend "Bogart." The mournful ballad "Human Racing" brings back sense memories of nights at New England beaches. Kershaw's first CD is not perfect but shows genuine moments of all the brilliance that was yet to come.
The tracks are as catchy as they are smart. As inspired as they are though provoking. A pretty tall order for three and a half minute pop songs. "The Riddle," "Wide Boy," "Easy" and "Don Quixote" (Kershaw loves to write about historical figures) are perfect examples of 1980s songs that really rocked. This disc is a great intro to anyone new to Nik's music. "The Riddle" should have been the album that turned Nik Kershaw into an international superstar along the lines of Howard Jones. Sadly, that never happened. He seemed to disappear from the music scene completely, at least in America.
The huge shame is that "Radio Musicola" should have been a big crossover success. It is packed with bright and bouncy tunes. The singles "Nobody Knows," "What The Papers Say" and "Running Scared" are amazing songs. The title track, which samples several U.S. DJs, dares you not to sing along. And the ballads are "Violet To Blue" and "L.A.B.A.T.Y.D." are beautiful. The CD features top notch musicians including Rupert Greenwald from The Fixx, Drummer Simon Phillips and Paul McCartney cohort Wix on keys.
The epic "One World" should have been the theme to an Olympic closing ceremony with thousands of multiracial kids filling a stadium with Kershaw's catchy chorus. Nik revisited his love of history on two tracks "Wounded Knee" and the lovely "Elizabeth's Eyes" which tells the tale of a letter writing exchange between a prisoner on death row and Queen Elizabeth. "Lady On The Phone" seems like the perfect AC (Adult Contemporary) single and even features backing vocals courtesy of the smooth croon of Michael McDonald. The track "Don't Ask Me" is the most clever assemblage of word play and hooky instrumentation you've never heard.
After "The Works" failed to break Nik Kershaw wide he simple vanished behind the scenes in the music business. Content to work as a sessions musician, songwriter (Elton John calls him the most brilliant ever) and producer of U.K. pop acts including Chesney Hawkes. Ten years passed with no new recorded tunes from the diminutive genius. Only the occasional "Best Of" disc would hit the bins to remind us of what we were missing.
The disc itself is a welcome return with him updating his sound to a modern document full soaring vocals and heartfelt (and heart breaking) songs. "Somebody Loves You," "Billy" and "Fiction" are stand out tracks. As is the title cut "15 Minutes," which pokes full at fame and Kershaw's "One Hit Wonder" status.
Lately, Kershaw, who had long been opposed to anything nostalgia related, has been performing live at several 80's themed festival (including "Rewind") in the U.K. Even playing his debut CD "Human Racing" live in it's entirety on the heels of the CD getting a 2 disc deluxe reissue. Seems he is finally okay with his past. Or he needs the cash. His upcoming 2014 fall tour features him playing career spanning acoustic sets. I can only hope that he will bring his stripped sown performance to America. Nik Kershaw is a pop genius. That explains why this is to date my longest Music Appreciation Society. Get the "Then & Now" best of CD as an intro. "The Riddle" and "Human Racing" are also available on import from amazon.co.uk. For his later works visit www.nikkershaw.net