The Great Escape (Blur album)

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The Great Escape
Blur thegreatescape.png
Studio album by Blur
Released 11 September 1995 (1995-09-11)
Recorded January–May 1995
Studio
Genre Britpop
Length 56:56
Label
Producer Stephen Street
Blur chronology
The Brit Pop Blur Box
(1994)
The Great Escape
(1995)
Live at the Budokan
(1996)
Singles from The Great Escape
  1. "Country House"
    Released: 14 August 1995
  2. "The Universal"
    Released: 13 November 1995
  3. "Stereotypes"
    Released: 12 February 1996
  4. "Charmless Man"
    Released: 29 April 1996
  5. "It Could Be You"
    Released: 22 May 1996 (Japan only)

The Great Escape is the fourth studio album by the English rock band Blur, released on 11 September 1995 on Food and Virgin Records. The album received near-universal acclaim from critics on release and reached number one in the UK Albums Chart. It was the band's first record to crack the US charts, reaching number 150.[1] Less than a year after the album was released, it was certified triple platinum in the UK.[2]

The album continued the band's run of hit singles, with "Country House", "The Universal", "Stereotypes" and "Charmless Man". "Country House" was Blur's first single to chart at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart, beating Oasis' "Roll with It", in a chart battle dubbed "The Battle of Britpop".

The Great Escape is the final part of Blur's 'Life' trilogy,[3] after Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993) and Parklife (1994). With Blur's 1997 self-titled album, the band would change direction and move away from Britpop in favour of a more lo-fi and alternative rock sound.

Background and recording[edit]

Concept[edit]

On 17 June 1995, James and Albarn spoke on BBC Radio 1 about coming up with a title for the album;[4] "We've got until this Wednesday, our record company inform us, to come up with it," said Albarn. "We've been trying to get life into it, but nothing was very good – Wifelife, Darklife, Nextlife," added James.

The album is in the style of a concept album, that is, most of the songs are linked by a similar theme—loneliness and detachment. Damon Albarn subsequently revealed that much of The Great Escape is about himself (e.g. "Dan Abnormal" is an anagram for "Damon Albarn").

Songs[edit]

"Mr. Robinson's Quango" was the first song recorded for the album,[5] whilst "It Could Be You" was the last, in May 1995.[6] The title of the latter was taken from the original advertising slogan of the United Kingdom's multimillion-pound-prize National Lottery, which had drawn much public interest after its inception the previous year, though the lyric itself refers to gambling in only the most oblique ways.[7]

"Yuko and Hiro" was originally titled "Japanese Workers",[8] whilst "The Universal" was first attempted during the Parklife sessions as a ska number. During the making of The Great Escape the song was resurrected by James, who notes in his autobiography, Bit of a Blur, that the band had almost given up on getting it to work when Albarn came up with the string section.[8]

One song on the album, "Ernold Same", features Ken Livingstone, then an MP and later the Mayor of London between 2000 and 2008. He is credited in the sleevenotes as "The Right-On" Ken Livingstone. The character seems to have been named after Pink Floyd's Arnold Layne.[5]

As with Blur's previous two albums, the liner notes also contain guitar chords for each of the songs along with the lyrics.

Singles[edit]

The album spawned four hit singles for the band with "Country House", "The Universal", "Stereotypes" and "Charmless Man". "Stereotypes" made its debut at a secret gig at the Dublin Castle in London and was considered as the album's lead single, but "Country House" got a bigger reaction from fans.[5] "Country House" gave the band their first number 1 single, beating Oasis to the top spot. "The Universal" and "Charmless Man" both reached the top 5, whilst "Stereotypes" peaked at number 7. In Japan, "It Could Be You" was released as a 4-track single, featuring b-sides recorded live at the Budokan.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[9]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[10]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[11]
Melody Maker 12/10[12]
NME 9/10[13]
Pitchfork 8.2/10[14]
Q 5/5 stars[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars[16]
Select 5/5[17]
Spin 6/10[18]

The Great Escape evoked "critical euphoria",[19] and met with widespread acclaim.[20][21] David Cavanagh in Select called it "a funny, brave and heartbroken record" that "has everything you could want",[17] while NME reporter Johnny Cigarettes wrote: "The Great Escape is so rammed with tunes, ideas, emotions, humour, tragedy, farce, and edgy beauty that it's utterly beyond contemporary compare."[13] A Melody Maker critic awarded the album an unconventional 12/10 and deemed it superior to highly acclaimed predecessor Parklife, while noting that "Blur understand the geometry of the song, and the basic principles of pop, better than anyone today".[12] Less enthused was Spin journalist Chuck Eddy, who felt the LP ranged from "wonderful" to "detached and emotionally stiff".[18] The Great Escape was named as one of the 10 best records of 1995 in Melody Maker,[22] NME,[23] Q magazine,[24] Raw[25] and Select.[26] NME readers voted it the third-best album of the year.[27]

Support from the music press soon tapered off, however, and The Great Escape gained many detractors; it has been suggested that allegiances shifting to rival band Oasis played a prominent role in this revaluation.[19][20] Q magazine would issue an apologia for their five-star review of the record,[28] while Graeme McMillan in Time remarked that it lacks the "breadth and heart" of Parklife, feeling "cynical and uninspired in comparison".[29] Blur frontman Damon Albarn also grew critical of the album, calling it a "bad" and "messy" release.[30] Drowned in Sound reporter Marc Burrows felt the LP had been overrated and then underrated, writing: "Reality is somewhere in between... The Great Escape reveals itself as flawed, melancholy, occasionally stunning and utterly bonkers."[20] Other journalists retained an unapologetically favourable stance: the album was described by AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine as "a vibrant, invigorating record",[9] and by Brian Doan in PopMatters as a "masterpiece".[3]

Select named the record the 34th best of the 1990s,[31] while Pitchfork placed it 70th.[32] It was ranked by BuzzFeed as the sixth-best LP of the Britpop era.[33] The Great Escape also placed at #725 in the book, All Time Top 1000 Albums.[34]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree.

No. Title Length
1. "Stereotypes" 3:10
2. "Country House" 3:57
3. "Best Days" 4:49
4. "Charmless Man" 3:34
5. "Fade Away" 4:19
6. "Top Man" 4:00
7. "The Universal" 3:58
8. "Mr. Robinson's Quango" 4:02
9. "He Thought of Cars" 4:15
10. "It Could Be You" 3:14
11. "Ernold Same" (featuring Ken Livingstone) 2:07
12. "Globe Alone" 2:23
13. "Dan Abnormal" 3:24
14. "Entertain Me" 4:19
15. "Yuko and Hiro" 5:24
Japanese bonus tracks
No. Title Length
16. "Ultranol" 2:41
17. "No Monsters in Me" 5:14

4:21 into "Yuko and Hiro" is a minute long instrumental reprise of "Ernold Same". Although officially untitled, it is sometimes erroneously referred to as "A World of Difference" because these words appear in a separate box below the track list in the booklet.

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Blur Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  2. ^ BPI Certified Awards Search Archived 24 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine. British Phonographic Industry. Note: reader must define "Search" parameter as "Blur".
  3. ^ a b Doan, Brian (5 August 2014). "Blur and 'The Great Escape'". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2017. 
  4. ^ "• discography • blur • the great escape". Blurcentral.co.uk. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c "Blur – The Great Escape – album info". Vblurpage.com. 11 September 1995. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  6. ^ "The History of Blur – 1995–1997". Vblurpage.com. 12 August 1995. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  7. ^ "Superbrands case studies: The National Lottery – Brand Republic News". Brand Republic. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "The Great Escape". Blur Talk. 17 June 1995. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  9. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Great Escape – Blur". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  10. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (15 September 1995). "CD of the week: Blur (and not an Oasis in sight)". The Guardian. 
  11. ^ Hochman, Steve (1 October 1995). "Blur; 'The Great Escape', Virgin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "Blur: The Great Escape". Melody Maker: 33. 9 September 1995. 
  13. ^ a b Cigarettes, Johnny (9 September 1995). "Blur – The Great Escape". NME: 46. Archived from the original on 17 August 2000. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  14. ^ Zoladz, Lindsay (31 July 2012). "Blur: Blur 21". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  15. ^ "Blur: The Great Escape". Q (109): 110. October 1995. 
  16. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 89–90. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  17. ^ a b Cavanagh, David (October 1995). "The Joy of Essex". Select (64): 104–05. 
  18. ^ a b Eddy, Chuck (November 1995). "Oasis: (What's the Story) Morning Glory / Blur: The Great Escape". Spin. 11 (8): 124–25. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  19. ^ a b McMahon, James (2011). "The Great Escape review". BBC Music. Retrieved 2 January 2017. 
  20. ^ a b c Burrows, Marc (1 August 2012). "Blur - The Great Escape ('21' reissue)". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  21. ^ "On Second Thoughts: Blur vs. Oasis - Who Really Won The Britpop War?". DIY. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2017. 
  22. ^ Year-end list. Melody Maker. 1995.
  23. ^ Year-end list. NME. 1995.
  24. ^ Year-end list. Q. 1995.
  25. ^ Albums of the Year. Raw. 1995.
  26. ^ Year-end list. Select. 1995.
  27. ^ Readers Poll for 1995. NME. 1995.
  28. ^ Paul, Clements (10 December 2008). "Blur: the Britpop boys are back, but do we want them?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 January 2017. 
  29. ^ McMillan, Graeme (28 April 2014). "Parklife Is the Cornerstone of Britpop, But It Shouldn't Be". Time. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  30. ^ "Digital Spy – Albarn cusses own albums". Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  31. ^ Best of the 90's. Select. 2000.
  32. ^ "Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork. LibraryThing. 1999. Archived from the original on 21 January 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  33. ^ Perpetua, Matthew (9 January 2014). "The Official Britpop Album Ranking". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  34. ^ Larkin, Colin. All Time Top 1000 Albums. 2000.
  35. ^ Discogs. 2017. Blur – The Great Escape. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.discogs.com/Blur-The-Great-Escape/release/2461868. [Accessed 17 March 2017].
  36. ^ "Australian chart positions". australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  37. ^ "Austrian chart positions". austriancharts.at. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  38. ^ a b c Steffen Hung. "Blur - The Great Escape". swisscharts.com. Retrieved 2015-08-15. 
  39. ^ a b Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (1995). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 
  40. ^ "Dutch chart positions". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  41. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (1995). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 
  42. ^ "French chart positions". lescharts.com. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  43. ^ "German album positions". musicline.de. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  44. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - ALBUM 1995: Altri". Hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 2015-08-15. 
  45. ^ "ブラーのCDアルバムランキング" [Blur – best-selling album ranking on the Oricon]. oricon.co.jp. Oricon Style. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  46. ^ "New Zealand chart positions". charts.org.nz. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  47. ^ "Norwegian chart positions". norwegiancharts.com. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  48. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  49. ^ "Swedish chart positions". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  50. ^ "Swiss chart positions". hitparade.ch. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  51. ^ "British chart positions". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 5 December 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  52. ^ "Blur Album & Song Chart History". billboard.com. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  53. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Blur – The Great Escape". Music Canada. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  54. ^ "French album certifications – Blur – The Great Escape" (in French). InfoDisc.  Select BLUR and click OK
  55. ^ "Les Albums Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  56. ^ "RIAJ > The Record > November 1995 > Certified Awards (September 1995)" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Japan (in Japanese). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  57. ^ "Norwegian album certifications – Blur – The Great Escape" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  58. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  59. ^ "British album certifications – Blur – The Great Escape". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 13 May 2013.  Enter The Great Escape in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  60. ^ "IFPI Platinum Europe Awards – 1996". International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Zeitgeist by The Levellers
UK number one album
23 September 1995 – 6 October 1995
Succeeded by
Daydream by Mariah Carey