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Ian Brown


The greatest Britpop frontman of all-time, or just a man and his fanclub who thinks he is, IAN BROWN (born 20th February 1963 in Warrington, England) was certainly the bees knees when his late 80s “Madchester” baggy act The STONE ROSES were top of their tree. Not as successful as his heady days as po-faced singer alongside Messrs Squire, Mani and Reni, the solo IAN BROWN has nevertheless clocked up several Top 20 sets and a raft of hits, all effective but none classic or memorable – the test is to name half a dozen in a short space of time.
From early ‘98, the man launched his solo career (via a new deal with Polydor Records) by releasing the single, `My Star’, a taster from his inaugural album UNFINISHED MONKEY BUSINESS {*6}. Augmented by guest Mani (on bass), Nigel Ippinson (keyboards and bass), SIMPLY RED and The STONE ROSES’ latter-day guitarist Aziz Abrahim, Simon Moore (drums) and co-writer Robbie Maddox, the promise of big hitters `Corpses (In Their Mouths)’ and `Can’t See Me’ were overshadowed by the rather pedestrian material and the fact that The Stone Roses classic debut hadn’t been forgotten. BROWN subsequently landed himself in deep water when he was charged with threatening behaviour on a flight between Paris and Manchester. Astonishingly sentenced to four months in prison at the end of October, the singer was released a couple of months early that Christmas eve.
Back in circulation the following year, BROWN guested for Mo Wax duo U.N.K.L.E. on the track `Be There’; `Reign’ was among others by this unique combination. Album number two GOLDEN GREATS (1999) {*8} was duly mistaken for a quick-fire compilation, and thus its mediocre highest chart position at only 14. Previewed by the hit single, `Love Like A Fountain’, the set showed Ian (and guest co-writers including Ibrahim, co-producer Dave McCracken, Sylvan Richardson, Tim Wills and Simon Wolstencroft) venturing away from the staid and into every funkin’ neo-psych/dance rock genre under the sun. A fave rave of the NME at the time, one can truly believe in its well-crafted funky song structures in `Free My Way’, `Gettin’ High’ and two further hits, the Top 5 `Dolphins Were Monkeys’ and the Top 30 `Golden Gaze’.
BROWN surfaced almost two years later with the brilliant orchestral-driven single `F.E.A.R.’, as he turned the letters of the word (stanza-like) into a poetic acronym which resulted in a Top 20 hit. His third album proper, MUSIC OF THE SPHERES (2001) {*8} was issued to almost unanimous critical acclaim and reinforced his self-confidence as an artist when it climbed into the Top 3; the not-so-major `Whispers’ won him a Muso award. The inevitable REMIXES OF THE SPHERES (2002) {*4} noodled away the time as Ian contemplated his next move.
SOLARIZED (2004) {*6} continued his international, interstellar DIY, with diversions into mariachi (his wife is Mexican after all), delivered as ever in his cocky simian slur. BROWN and Mancunian mate NOEL GALLAGHER, put their bushy eyebrows together for one of the album’s highlights, the Top 20 track `Keep What Ya Got’. Both this and `Time Is My Everything’ were elevated to BROWN’s personal hall of fame on the self-referentially titled THE GREATEST (2005) {*8} (`All Ablaze’ was a fresh hit) – well the “King Monkey” was bestowed with the title/award “Godlike Genius” by the NME in 2006; had they heard him singing MICHAEL JACKSON’s `Billie Jean’ and `Thriller’?
Anyway, it was back to finishing some monkey business via album five, the Top 5 THE WORLD IS YOURS (2007) {er… *5}. Drafting in a stellar cast that included SEX PISTOLS Steve Jones and Paul Cook, pre-Brit-pop bassists Andy Rourke (ex-SMITHS) and Paul Ryder (of HAPPY MONDAYS), plus songstress SINEAD O’CONNOR (on two tracks including Top 20 anti-war song hit `Illegal Attacks’), one would’ve thought the album might’ve had better critical praise – still, it did reach the Top 5.
Inspired by MICHAEL JACKSON’s “Thriller” and with full production by the aforementioned Dave McCracken, MY WAY (2009) {*5} was given the thumbs-down in some quarters for its seemingly easy diversion into pop; example must be his mariachi version of Zager And Evans’ late-60s chart-buster, `In The Year 2525’. As ever bombastic and self-assured, one can only blame a mid-life crisis and trying to keep up with the Jones’ or indeed the JACKSONs. `For The Glory’ (a dig somewhere about Squire) and near Top 30 hit `Stellify’ were worthy of more exposure for the man who would be King Monkey.
Fast forward and just what the doctor ordered was the official announcement of the third coming of The STONE ROSES. A live reunion for the most part, they toured up and down the country; a documentary (“Made Of Stone”) hit the cinemas summer 2013, but on the recording front, only a couple of singles (`All For One’ and `Beautiful Thing’) emerged to the fore; they performed final gig at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on 24th June 2017.
A year on, IAN BROWN was back on solo terrain with a fresh single: `First World Problems’. A taster from parent set, RIPPLES (2019) {*6}, the 56-year-old star was climbing back into the consciousness of ex-Madchester aficionados far and wide. On this Top 5 comeback record, Ian proved his worth on a couple of ex-reggae covers, namely BARRINGTON LEVY’s `Black Roses’ and MIKEY DREAD’s `Break Down The Walls (Warm-Up Jams)’. Despite mixed reviews, standout tracks stemmed from the title track and the funky `The Dream And The Dreamer’.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS May2012-May2019

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