A celebration of the LP, the long-player, the album music format. Reviews, recommendations and discussion.

Undeclared Masterpiece #3: McAlmont – A Little Communication (1998)

After a quiet couple of weeks it seems about time to champion another LP that doesn’t get anywhere near the recognition I think it deserves.

It’s a source of continual frustration for me that whenever I mention the rather talented singer David McAlmont to any of my musically inclined friends the usual response is, “Oh, he was the one that did the Yes song, that was pretty good”. Indeed he was that one that did that Yes song, and it was pretty good (to put it mildly). But if your knowledge of Mr McAlmont starts and ends there you’re missing out on an awful lot of good stuff.

Before the aforementioned top ten hit he produced some rather fine work with Saul Freeman as the early 90’s duo Thieves, culminating in an album of drama-drenched pop moments and a very good Joni Mitchell cover (though the album was released under just the McAlmont name).

There was also the pride-related Saturday! EP and the extraordinary first album with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler (I say album, though more accurately a collection of a couple of singles with their B-sides which still managed to be one of the best records of 1995).

Wonderful although all that was it felt like a mere taster for what was coming next…David McAlmont’s masterpiece (so far).

A Little Communication came out in 1998 after what seemed like an endless wait. I didn’t really know what to expect, the electro flamboyance of Thieves? The lush pop of McAlmont & Butler? A single had been released a year or two previously, the oddly aggressive Look At Yourself, so perhaps the new album would be more of the same?

But in the end A Little Communication was none of these things. The opening track “Lose My Faith” starts with a scratchy, pulsing, electronic backing track before the vocal joins in, but the vocal isn’t the pop falsetto of many David McAlmont tracks, this is a rich, deep soulful performance. In fact I think this is one of the best vocal performances of his career, a seven minute epic detailing the insecurities of a relationship. A very fine start to the album.

Were Marvin Gaye still with us I like to think that the title track is the kind of thing he’d be giving us. Following the same themes as the opening track “A Little Communication” should be considered a modern soul classic. I hate to use such a patronising terms as ‘mature’ but it is clear from the opening couple of tracks that this is a more thoughtful and personal album than some of his earlier work.

The record continues veering into dark and sexy (“Happy Hour) and soulful pop (“Honey”) whilst you can almost taste the fumes on the icy “The Train”. There are many highlights on this LP, “Who Loves You?” is a delightful love song to a friend which builds to a soaring conclusion, “It’s Enough” is minimalist pop at it’s absolute best and “After Youth” is the perfect closing track, one that you will continue singing along to long after the track has finished.

The thing that everyone who has ever heard David McAlmont comments on without fail is his incredible voice. Some voices sound nice but are uninteresting, other voices sound awful but something about them makes you want to keep listening, whereas David McAlmont’s voice not only sounds great but improves any song he sings, it’s a voice I never get tired of hearing. And it is this which I think is the real strength of this record, his voice is allowed to take centre stage. The music is great but the vocals are brought to the forefront and make this record what it is.

David McAlmont has gone on to do other great things; his work with David Arnold, the second McAlmont & Butler record, the collaborations with Michael Nyman and Guy Davis. But this is his greatest achievement to date. If you enjoy soul music, pop music, electronic music or just a damn good singer then you should check this out.

Lose My Faith*
A Little Communication*
Happy Hour
Who Loves You?*
The Train
Love & Madness
It’s Enough*
After Youth*

* = standout tracks


One comment on “Undeclared Masterpiece #3: McAlmont – A Little Communication (1998)

  1. Nemorino
    June 6, 2013

    Excellent review of a splendid record. McAlmont dazzles throughout. I really like your Marvin Gaye reference here. Thank you!

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