Sorrows: Love Too Late … The Real Album – album review
Sorrows: Love Too Late… The real album
CD / Vinyl / DL
New version of the ill-fated second album by New York-based new wave pop group Sorrows. It was originally released in 1981 and produced by Shel Talmy, who had directed significant parts of the mid-1960s for The Kinks, The Who and many more. Unfortunately it wasn’t the ideal match, it might have appeared at first glance… Ian Canty hears the real deal about Sorrows…
The New York City Sorrows (nb no “The”, unlike the Coventry ’60s band with the same name) have their roots in the pioneering power pop group of the early 1970s, The Poppees. Guitarist / singer Arthur Alexander and drummer Jett Harris fit into the original Sorrows lineup. Alexander was joined in the vocal front line by newcomer Joey Cola on guitar and bassist Ricky Street. They hit the Big Apple’s alternative nightclubs in 1977 with gusto, building up a solid following at Max’s and CBGBs. In 1979, they were signed by Pavilion / Epic, which is part of the CBS group. Despite the arrival of their debut album Teenage Heartbreaker just as the United States was starting to embrace the new wave, the LP’s sales did not reflect the critical response or the quality of the ensemble.
Pavilion let the band work on a UK follow-up with a top producer, but alas, it had to be anything but the perfect match. At first glance, Shel Talmy must have seemed like a good choice. Born in Chicago, he moved to London and rose to prominence for his work in the mid-1960s with The Kinks and The Who. Shel found success later in the decade with The Easybeats and psychedelic contestants The Creation, but as the decade wore on her star had waned. By 1980 his production work had shrunk to a trickle and the punk era, which may have seemed specially crafted for its basic and fiery sound, has just given birth to The Damned single Stretcher Case Baby.
So, working with Sorrows undoubtedly gave him the opportunity to return to the game, as well as the group perhaps seeing the benefit of being seen in the same breath as Talmy’s more famous charges. The sorrows flew to London with high hopes, but it all turned sour pretty quickly. Talmy came back on his days using session men instead of band members like he did with The Who on I Can’t Explain. He replaced the drummer with a session man and singers were recruited to sing the vocal parts of the group. On top of all that, the then current synth craze was foamed on top of it, sweeping away one of Sorrows’ main strengths in one fell swoop.
All of these unnecessary additions failed because the resulting record, Love Too Late, pleased neither the group’s original supporters nor pop fans in general. The bad reaction to the LP was finally enough for the group. But all is not lost, as Sorrows is back in 2021 to right this wrong. Alexander, Cola and Street return here with new drummer Luis Herrera behind the traps and they are in a determined mood, eager to let the listener hear Love Too Late exactly as it was meant to sound.
Christabelle’s new explosion gets things going, as Sorrows sets up her stand moving smoothly with power and sheer energy. Exciting and fast-paced, but above all valuable for a memorable melody, this is exactly the kind of upbeat pop music that suits radio so well, ironically where it is shockingly under-represented today. The title song then follows, the guitar tinkling in the foreground and with a scrambled rhythm, a white-heated new wave pop that easily creeps into the consciousness of the listener. Crying Time changes course, fitting easily into a fluid reggae skank. It’s a fun act that has the advantage of showing that the Sorrows are more than just a pony ride.
There’s a touch of the Beatles being given an extra crunch date about Rita (not the meter maid…) and the freezing cold of the guitar here really makes it work. It oscillates and you can easily see it in the UK charts in 1981, after all, Squeeze and Elvis Costello were doing a similar line, catchy songs with poise and purpose back then. Then we have a firecracker in Play This Song (On The Radio), a request that needs to be heard as soon as possible on this evidence. Starting from acapella to emphasize the vocal harmonies that Talmy sought to reject, So Much Love is the dream setting of attitude, a catchy melody and a pure rhythmic hammer. It’s pop music like it should be more often.
Taking things at a more relaxed pace, Breaking My Heart (Over You) is both dramatic and hazy. A song of commitment, subsequent loss, and self-resolution because all the feeling in and of itself is of no real use. A very smart track that sounds really epic at the end, with the voice of guest APU Gospel Choir skyrocketing. This brings us to what must have caused a certain feeling of déjà vu for Shel Talmy on the original album, a cover of The Kinks’ Tired Of Waiting For You. Sorrows takes Ray Davies’ song and adds a raspy side with a lot of thud, even adding a bit of the You Really Got Me riff in the break.
What I used to know rumbles with blazing guitars and a finicky bass that kicks things up a notch, and It’s Not Love Anymore starts to get nervous and develops into a real pop pounder. Closer Street Punk Blues is the only brand new effort on Love Too Late… The Real Album and finds the band marching on with unstoppable headlong momentum. This provides a neat final piece to a fine collection.
Love Too Late… The Real Album is as far as it is possible to be from a group retracing ancient glories. The Sorrows brings things back to the energy of the band in their youth and they clearly seem to be on a mission to salvage the LP songs from the duff recording techniques encouraged in 1981. While that might make one think it was a shame that ‘they never got to cut the album they wanted back then and what a live act they were no doubt in their original incarnation, the realization that they are still capable of that mighty sound all these years in 2021 is a heartwarming thought indeed. As we finally get back to live gigs, what a great proposition it would be to see Sorrows slam this album’s brilliant tunes on stage now. Hopefully Love Too Late… The Real Album is a dazzling collection of heavy and clean pop adornments.
Sorrows are on Facebook here
All of Ian Canty’s words – see his author profile here