Ian D. Hall

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

The U.K. had two versions of the 1960s. The first which revolved around Swinging London, Carnaby Street, the advent of women’s liberation and the pill, short skirts, sexual freedom, relaxation of antiquated laws, The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks. This world was there for the people of the U.K. to see but very few saw that glimpse of hedonistic Britain outside of the silver screen, news items and their dreams. For others, it was the second version, the world of Rita Tushingham and A Taste of Honey, The Wednesday Afternoon Play, Cathy Come Home, Carol White, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, social deprivation and unrest, sex scandals in Parliament, train robberies, Profumo and the threat of nuclear war between two superpowers either side of the U.K. It’s no wonder that people prefer to remember the sixties as a golden time in Britain compared to real life.

Mixing the reality of sixties Britain with their own psychedelic twist and clever narrative, The Cherry Bluestorms release their new album Bad Penny Opera, a concept album that sweeps the listener of their feet and takes them on a long journey from somewhere in the North of England to the illusion of what London was, a vision that hasn’t changed since a certain young gentleman was told that the streets were lined with gold. Bad Penny may be the subject of the concept but without The Cherry Bluestorms infallible way of making music, the originality in which they conduct the narrative, it’s doubtful whether Bad Penny would have ever taken shape.

The illusion to the penny dreadfuls of the late Victorian era mix well with the idea of a girl leaving behind unhappiness in sixties Britain and trying to find a fresh start is pure Vaudeville, a marvellous hark back to theatre and yet it took a marvellous pair of musicians from across the Atlantic to put this vision into shape and in respect to The Beatles and the emotive She’s Leaving Home, a look at the other side of life in the U.K., the side that was only ever documented in black and white, something that was only just one step on from George Orwell’s look at the northern cities in The Road To Wigan Pier.

Even though there has been a major gap between the two albums, Bad Penny Opera relishes the challenge made by its predecessor and in the songs, A Better Place, the excellent Sunday Driving South, To Love You Is A Crime with its undertones of a time before the repeal act of 1967 and World Gone Mad, both Deborah Gee and Glen Laughlin and the assortment of players give seriously brave and wonderful performances.

It can only be hoped that there isn’t another huge gap between Bad Penny Opera and the next album as the Cherry Bluestorms are a band that don’t deserve to languish in the background.

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