DreamAcademy CDBoxSet 003 809x800 1

The Dream Academy – Religion, Revolution & Railways (Cherry Red)

A windswept vista can be heard, and then a gentle melody begins, as vocalist Nick Laird-Clowes sets the scene, “A Salvation Army band played and the children drank lemonade, and the morning lasted all day, all day…”. By this point, you might conjure the image of a childhood idyll, that, if not ours, was one imagined in the lines of an Enid Blyton novel. This was The Dream Academy’s 1985 debut single, as singer-songwriter Laird-Clowes was joined by multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John and keyboardist and songwriter Gilbert Gabriel to produce a sound that was quite out of keeping with anything else at the time of its release. This release, Religion, Revolution & Railways features the band’s 3 albums along with B-sides, remixes, and unreleased tracks, so for anyone wishing to explore these 80s alternative sounds, this might be a good place to start, and for those of us who had, a good reminder of the sounds we would never forget.

With those 3 albums, the B-sides, remixes, and unreleased tracks to consider, this bulks out the collection to comprise 7 CDs. That’s nearly 5 hours of music, or 4′ 42″ to be precise, and knowing The Dream Academy, none of this is going to be in any way a struggle. Laird-Clowes compiled the collection, with him searching the band’s Warner Bros. archives to find rarities and unreleased tracks for inclusion. He was also involved in the tape’s remastering and has created all new artwork for this set. It commences, naturally, with ‘Life In A Northern Town’, a perfect beginning to this collection, from the eponymous debut album. Mostly produced by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, this is stunning. My one-word review of this track would be ‘delightful’, and is a perfectly written song, both lyrically and musically, sounding as fresh today as it did back in 1985.

To follow is ‘The Edge Of Forever’ a number which was used so memorably in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as was another that didn’t feature on this album, but more of that later. The track features the band’s anthemic dream pop, a general theme heard throughout, and refreshingly so. In all the years I have been in the company of their musical journey, I’ve never heard it in quite the way I’m hearing it now, but from what is coming from my speakers, mid-album shows a key change and a good one at that. Before now, the songs have been great, but as the listener encounters ‘Bound To Be’ it’s disco that meets the senses and I mean this track is a megalith in a musical context. Standing 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide, the song learns all the lessons that made the disco scene spread its message worldwide, coupled with awesome songwriting, that continues throughout the album. I said this wasn’t going to be an uphill ride; sure enough, and this has proved so. By the time we reach the album’s official second single, ‘Love Parade’, production credits come from Alan Tarney. This is a producer familiar from his work with Cliff Richard and A-ha to name a few and was a sound that differed to what had come before. Imagine you’re walking beside the Seine clothed in a kaftan, this is uncomplicated, yet full in its presentation. With a further 2 tracks remaining, to sum up this first album, it’s a winner.

The 2 albums that followed, Remembrance Days and A Different Kind Of Weather, were not as commercially successful, in the UK at least, but as musical outings they are recordings that would enrich any record collection. Although these may not have been so successful, it is on the collectors market where they have found their true calling. Remembrance Days commences with the deliciously titled ‘Indian Summer’ and who doesn’t love an Indian Summer? In keeping with the first album, production was by music legend Hugh Padgham, famous for his work with bands like XTC, Genesis, The Police and the like, as well as Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham. Tracks are certainly different in their feel and run as easily as honey off a spoon. This provides the listener with the vocal narration of Laird-Clowes, creating scenes that are like a road map of the songs. I refer to what we hear in the song ‘Power To Believe‘ , “…Can You Hear It, Can You Hear the Word…“, all sung within a dreamy haze, a track whose instrumental was used by John Hughes in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, that could be a soundtrack to my life and I’m not the only one!

As ‘Hampstead Girl’ continues it shows what a musical palette we have been invited to experience, it’s sublime. New Musical Express, back in the day gave this album 8/10 and when you catch the words in the song ‘In The Hands Of Love’ you can understand just why. “…Freedom walked without a name, through poppy fields and remembrance days and the words hung like winter in the air…”, this was heavyweight songwriting and musically was every bit as accomplished. Through the adulterous affair we are given party to in ‘Ballad In 4/4’, its country music approach is quite audible in its tone and timing, to one that screamed adult-oriented rock in ‘Doubleminded’, this variety refreshing in its presentation. Continuing the theme in the Korgis ‘Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime’, the band took the mantle and recorded a cover version that might even be considered to surpass the original. This album is quite different to their eponymous debut, whilst at the same time containing its theme of strong songwriting.

The new decade saw 1991’s A Different Kind Of Weather which opens with the single ‘Love’, which in some way I’ve always felt bears the hallmarks of George Harrison, perhaps the subject matter, or chanting used in the song. I found it quite deep in its lyrical outlook, whilst extremely moreish in its musical presentation. On this album, the band returned to the production duties of David Gilmour and from its speed of presentation, feels quite different to 87’s Remembrance Days, whilst at the same time somehow familiar. I certainly recommend you head for ‘Gaby Says‘, which, with its stringed presentation, demonstrates the band’s range. Nick’s vocals are clean and presented with strength. The same with Gabrield’s percussion abilities, which when displayed with the producer’s touch, is another sublime workout. Worth checking out is ‘Twelve-Eight Angel‘, a great song that, that like much of the content here could quite easily have been released as a single. This is another testament to the writing abilities of Laird-Clowes, St John and Gabriel, but it’s nice to hear elements of Gilmour, as those guitars sing high. Another album I can’t fault, although of the different producers I think my preference would be for that of David Gilmour.

This is certainly a set for rainy bank holidays, spent in the company of the acres of content on these seven CDs. Remixes, b-sides and unreleased tracks certainly deserve to be given time and volume, the last perhaps the most important, if you can. One tiny request would have to be that the band’s version of The Smiths ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ be included. This was a number that features in another John Hughes film mentioned earlier, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Nick must’ve heard my wish. This was a number that at first its writer Morrissey wasn’t too chuffed about, but later must’ve reneged on, using it as intermission music during late-period Smiths concerts. Many others feature, including the Japanese single ‘In The Heart’, a stunning track that will leave you thinking “Why was this only a B-side”?

Then there are instrumentals that are just enchanting, along with unreleased numbers that, as a fan, I’m glad were allowed to feature on this cracking set, which has transported me to my youth and reminded me just where this passion came from.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.