Timeless Flight

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Timeless Flight
Timeless Flight.jpg
Studio album by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
Released February 1976[1]
Genre Glam rock,[2] progressive rock
Length 41:40
Label EMI
Producer Steve Harley
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel chronology
The Best Years of Our Lives
(1975)The Best Years of Our Lives1975
Timeless Flight
(1976)
Love's a Prima Donna
(1976)Love's a Prima Donna1976

Timeless Flight is the fourth studio album by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, released in 1976. It was produced by Steve Harley.

Background[edit]

After the success of the band's 1975 album The Best Years of Our Lives, which spawned the UK number-one single "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)", the band soon returned to the studio to record their next album Timeless Flight. Harley had started writing material for the album during The Best Years of Our Lives tour, with some of the tracks being inspired by events and places the band went to on the tour. The band recorded the album at Trident Studios, Abbey Road Studios and Scorpio Sound Studio during the summer of 1975. The entire album was remixed, mastered and cut at Abbey Road Studios.[3] On the album, guitarist Jim Cregan used various guitars, including a Martin D18, 1956 Fender Telecaster, Gibson SG Standard and an Ovation acoustic with a built-in pick-up.[4]

The album was created in a more relaxed environment in comparison with The Best Years of Our Lives, which had been recorded quickly under considerable pressure. For the liner notes of the 2003 BGO CD release of Timeless Flight, Harley recalled: "It was a sweltering summer. It was incredibly hot. The songs, many of them being semi acoustic or laid back, I think stemmed as much from that as anything else. It made me a little lethargic."[5] In November 1975, the lead single, "Black or White", preceded the album. Despite the previous album's success earlier in the year, "Black or White" failed to reach the UK Top 50, which in turn gave the UK's music press the chance to predict Harley's commercial eclipse.[6] It did, however, reach #2 on the BMRB's UK Breakers Chart, which would have been equal to #52 on the main Singles Chart.[7] Speaking to Record Mirror in February 1976, Harley commented: "I knew it was either going to be massive - top three - or a complete stiff. It turned out to be a stiff."[8]

Timeless Flight was released in early February 1976 and would peak at #18 on the UK Albums Chart and remained in the charts for six weeks.[9] According to Record Mirror, the album received 40,000 advance orders in America, despite the band's lack of a hit single or album there.[10] During mid-February, the album's second single, "White, White Dove", was released, but also failed to reach the UK Top 50, peaking at #6 on the BMRB's UK Breakers Chart.[11] Following the album's release, the band embarked on a British and European tour. The band hired Jo Partridge to play rhythm guitar on the tour. After their concert at Wembley in April 1976, the band then toured America.[12]

In his interview with Record Mirror, Harley commented on the album: "It took about three months altogether and so much hard work went into it that as far as I'm concerned, it has to be the best I've done so far."[13] Years after its release, Harley revealed that Timeless Flight was his personal favourite album from his own career. In an exclusive 2004 interview for the unofficial fan site Harley Fanzone, he said:

"Well, years ago I would have said "Timeless Flight" because it got the worst reviews. It's my precious boy, my favourite child. It was such a change for me and the critics weren't ready. It's like I heard Mick Jagger say about one of the Stones albums, it was his favourite because it was nobody else's! I never realised it was the favorite album of so many people. "Nothing is Sacred" is on there and when I started to play that live I sensed it was something they really wanted to hear. Now it's a real blinder and it meant a lot to a lot of people to hear it. And "Red is a Mean Mean Colour" is a really personal song for me. There's a lot of personal stuff in there. "All Men Are Hungry" is another I like to sing. It's a song people can relate to."[14]

In 2003, Harley commented in the liner notes of the BGO release: "There were magic moments on Timeless Flight that I'd never experienced before. It wasn't the most commercial album ever following up the very commercial Best Years of Our Lives. I understand that. But there you are. We're not machines, are we?"[15] Speaking to The Leader in November 2016, Harley spoke of the album again: "I call it the naughty child that became a favourite. It was slightly experimental and I'm playing five tracks from it on this tour, two of which I'd never played live before. I was only 25 in 1976 and I just did what I wanted to do at that age and we thought it was going to be a monster hit and even though it wasn't, I'm still very proud of that album."[16]

Song information[edit]

The opening track "Red is a Mean, Mean Colour" speaks of the concept of communism, and was considerably shortened during the recording stage. Harley felt the editing of the lyrics eclipsed the message of the song. In his 1976 interview with Record Mirror & Disc, he said: "I haven't achieved what I set out to do with that one. People say it's long - winded lyric, but really I was explicit as I could be. When it started out, it had 10 verses and I edited it down drastically. It's about the concept of a communist and you can't sum up a man in one sentence for Christsakes."[17]

The song "Understand" was first recorded by Patricia Paay for her 1975 album Beam of Light. Harley produced the entire album, which also featured a cover of Cockney Rebel's 1973 European hit "Sebastian". Paay is the sister of Yvonne Keeley, who was Harley's backing vocalist and girlfriend of the time.[18] Harley later described the song as "a touch of the jazz world". The song features an improvised solo, played on a Mini-Moog synthesizer. It was completed in one take by keyboardist Duncan Mackay.[19]

"All Men Are Hungry" was inspired by a trip Harley took to Belgrade. In his 2004 interview for the Harley Fanzone, he recalled: "Not everybody was in Belgrade and not everybody can see exactly what I saw that morning but everyone can reflect on the idea that everyone has a need and not everybody is fulfilled. Everybody needs space and time and that's what the song is about."[20] In one of the song's verses, Harley refers to Ernest Hemingway's 1932 book Death in the Afternoon.[21]

"Nothing is Sacred" was written by Harley after he visited the banks of the Danube in Belgrade. In the 2003 BGO CD liner notes, he commented: "It's the true story of three of us staying up 'til dawn and partaking of the hedonism that one did in the 'Seventies." The song was recorded in the studio after most of Cockney Rebel and the recording crew had gone home. Harley wanted to try out the song in the studio and he ended up recording it with the band's second drummer Lindsay Elliott, bassist George Ford and guitarist Jim Cregan.[22]

Release[edit]

The album was released on vinyl by EMI Records in the UK and US, as well as across Europe including Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.[23] On the inside sleeve of the album, a short story titled "The Hill & Hibiscus Flowers" was included, which was written by Harley.[24]

Later in 1991, the album received its first CD release through EMI, which featured two bonus tracks; the B-Side "Throw Your Soul Down Here" from the "White, White Dove" single, and a live version of the track "Mad Mad Moonlight", which was the B-Side to the "Black or White" single.[25] In 1997, a Russian version of the CD was also released.[26] On 5 June 2003, BGO Records re-issued the album on CD, which included the same two bonus tracks. The release featured new liner notes by Sean Egan.[27] On 26 September 2011, BGO again re-issued the album on CD.[28]

Promotion[edit]

For the "Black or White" single, a music video was filmed to promote it. The video was filmed at Abbey Road Studios and was directed by Mick Rock, who also took the photographs of, and designed, the album's sleeve.[29] The band also performed the song on the ITV music programme Supersonic, as well as the Dutch TV show Top Pop. "White, White Dove" was also performed on Supersonic on another occasion.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2/5 stars[30]
Cash Box favourable[31]
The Miami News (USA) favourable[32]
Q 2/5 stars[33]
Sounds favourable[34]
Street Life mixed[35]
Words favourable[36]

Upon release, Wyn Carter of Words reviewed Timeless Flight and commented: "Timeless Flight is the new album from the ultra-talented Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel who are definitely on a higher plan that most pop groups in that it takes a little time to get fully into what they're doing, but it's so rewarding when you finally make it. "Black or White" is included with highlight tracks "Understand" and "Nothing is Sacred"."[37] Angus Mackinnon of Street Life concluded: "Timeless Flight is good music, questionable lyrical support systems. Or rather, if you dig the words the record's a Slumberland smooth double bed affair - and if you don't, you can just sleep on the floor."[38] Another UK music magazine review commented: "This is not as consistently good or disciplined as The Best Years of Our Lives, but then I never expected it to be. Despite all the imperfections, I'll be surprised if Timeless Flight doesn't end up among my favourite five albums of '76."[39] Another review by Jonathan Barnett said: "Timeless Flight is an important work by a critically underrated talent - few people it is, indeed, who are able to write startlingly honest and commercial material."[40]Geoff Barton spoke of the album in an article for Sounds: "For the first half dozen or so listenings, Timeless Flight appears both unremarkable and confounding. With successive spins, however, you begin to find it gently imposing and, ultimately, quite compelling."[41]

Jon Marlowe of the American newspaper The Miami News concluded: "Timeless Flight is not the masterpiece that many feel Harley is striving to create. What it is, though, is a fine record that shows Harley obcessed with cabaret and color this time out. At first it is not that easy to listen to but then, Harley has never made himself easily accessible."[42] Cash Box commented: "Harley's approach is unique enough to earn Cockney Rebel recognition as David Bowie's favorite band. Harley's coarsely narrative vocal technique lends credibility to his deeply imaginative lyrics. Though the entire album will delight FM listeners with taste, AM programmers should not overlook "Everything Changes" and "Don't Go, Don't Cry.""[43]

Of the 2003 BGO re-issue of the album, Martin Aston of Q concluded: "Harley blamed 1976's sapping heatwave for the fact that his next move [after The Best Years of Our Lives] traded such pop perfection for a dense, tricky, almost anti-glam party line that exploited his new crew's session-musician skills. Timeless Flight bears plenty of Harley's melodic hallmarks, but some complex tripwires keep popping up: "Black or White" is a rare showing of Rebel soulfulness but the tempo is lethargic; "White, White Dove's" borderline-poppy chorus is scuppered by skittish, borderline-jazz rock flourishes. A fans-only purchase."[44]

Donald A. Guarisco of AllMusic, in a retrospective review, felt the album was even more "ambitious" and "artsy" than The Best Years of Our Lives. He said: "Unfortunately, Timeless Flight neglects the strong pop hooks that made The Best Years of Our Lives so appealing. Much of Timeless Flight finds Harley getting bogged down in deliberately impenetrable wordplay and songs that, despite slick arrangements, are rather hookless vehicles for the verbose lyrics. A few highlights shine through for the patient listener, [but] the appeal of these occasional gems isn't enough to make the album consistently engaging." Guarisco picked the two tracks "Red is a Mean, Mean Colour" and "Black or White" as recommended AMG tracks.[45]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Steve Harley.

No. Title Length
1. "Red is a Mean, Mean Colour" 4:29
2. "White, White Dove" 5:36
3. "Understand" 7:14
4. "All Men Are Hungry" 4:50
5. "Black or White" 5:48
6. "Everything Changes" 2:23
7. "Nothing is Sacred" 5:42
8. "Don't Go, Don't Cry" 5:04

Personnel[edit]

Band

Additional musicians

Production

  • Steve Harley - producer
  • Peter Kelsey - engineer (tracks 1-2, 4, 6, 8)
  • Tony Clark - remix engineer (all tracks), engineer (track 2)
  • Ray Hendriksen - engineer (tracks 3, 7)
  • John Kurlander - engineer (track 5)
  • John Leckie - engineer (track 5)
  • Chris Blair - master cutter

Design

  • Mick Rock - sleeve design, photography, art direction
  • Steve Ridgeway - art direction, lettering
  • Julie Harris - lettering

Charts[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
position
Dutch Albums Chart[46] 18
UK Albums Chart[47] 18

References[edit]

  1. ^ Booklet of 2003 CD BGO issue of Timeless Flight
  2. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/timeless-flight-mw0000663630
  3. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Steve-Harley-Cockney-Rebel-Timeless-Flight/release/1331706
  4. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1976/Timeless/Cregan_Guitar.htm
  5. ^ Booklet of 2003 CD BGO issue of Timeless Flight
  6. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=L2kGAQAAMAAJ&q=steve+harley+black+or+white+cockney+rebel&dq=steve+harley+black+or+white+cockney+rebel&hl=en&sa=X&ei=D1ENUd_-LuOL0AWzxYCoBg&ved=0CC4Q6AEwADgK
  7. ^ Chartwatch magazine (Issue 46). Chartwatch. November 1993. pp. Breakers 1974–75 section. 
  8. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1977/Hard_Harted_Harley/Hard_Harted_Harley.htm
  9. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/18068/steve-harley/
  10. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1977/Hard_Harted_Harley/Hard_Harted_Harley.htm
  11. ^ Chartwatch magazine (Issue 35). Chartwatch. December 1990. pp. Breakers 1976 section. 
  12. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1977/Hard_Harted_Harley/Hard_Harted_Harley_2.htm
  13. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1977/Hard_Harted_Harley/Hard_Harted_Harley.htm
  14. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/Interviews/Harley04.htm
  15. ^ Booklet of 2003 CD BGO issue of Timeless Flight
  16. ^ http://www.leaderlive.co.uk/news/169124/wrexham-bound-singer-steve-harley-not-playing-your-hits-is-churlish-.aspx
  17. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1977/Hard_Harted_Harley/Hard_Harted_Harley_2.htm
  18. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Patricia-Paay-Beam-Of-Light/release/1467295
  19. ^ Booklet of 2003 CD BGO issue of Timeless Flight
  20. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/Interviews/Harley04.htm
  21. ^ Booklet of 2003 CD BGO issue of Timeless Flight
  22. ^ Booklet of 2003 CD BGO issue of Timeless Flight
  23. ^ http://www.discogs.com/master/view/122419
  24. ^ http://mlwi.magix.net/the_hill.htm
  25. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Steve-Harley-Cockney-Rebel-Timeless-Flight/release/3324815
  26. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Steve-Harley-Cockney-Rebel-Timeless-Flight/release/5800912
  27. ^ http://www.steveharley.com/discography/199-timeless-flight.html
  28. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Steve-Harley-Cockney-Rebel-Timeless-Flight/release/5836914
  29. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Steve-Harley-Cockney-Rebel-Timeless-Flight/release/5836914
  30. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/timeless-flight-mw0000663630
  31. ^ Cash Box newspaper - 22 May 1976 - Album Reviews - page 24
  32. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19760528&id=j8gyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=F-wFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3705,3917688
  33. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/2003/Qbowie/QBowie.htm
  34. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1977/Mouth_of_South_Slays.htm
  35. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1976/Timeless/Timeless3.htm
  36. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1976/showfare/showfare.htm
  37. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1976/showfare/showfare.htm
  38. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1976/Timeless/Timeless3.htm
  39. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1976/Timeless/Timeless2.htm
  40. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1976/Timeless/Timeless_Review01.htm
  41. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/1977/Mouth_of_South_Slays.htm
  42. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19760528&id=j8gyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=F-wFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3705,3917688
  43. ^ Cash Box newspaper - 22 May 1976 - Album Reviews - page 24
  44. ^ http://www.harleyfanzone.com/70/Scrapbook/2003/Qbowie/QBowie.htm
  45. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/timeless-flight-mw0000663630
  46. ^ Steffen Hung (1976-02-28). "Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - Timeless Flight". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  47. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/18068/steve-harley/