Fine Young Cannibals iTunes Tracks

Fine Young Cannibals

The meeting of soul minds, albeit from the world of the ska revival movement, former founders of The BEAT, Andy Cox (rhythm guitar) and David Steele (bass/keyboards), enlisted the trademark falsetto larynx of Roland Gift, a geezer they’d known since his days in Humberside-based sextet, Akrylykz – art college students from Hull with two 1980 Polydor singles to their name: `Smart Boy’ and `J.D.’; Roland also played sax.
As Messrs Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger of The BEAT closed the doors of their heart – without informing the others – to instigate off-shoot super-group GENERAL PUBLIC, Birmingham lads Cox and Steele subsequently abandoned a conveyor-belt of hopefuls to watch Gift perform R&B songs in a London combo named Bones.
Ska/2-Tone music had run its course by this stage in ‘84, with all its once-mighty sub-let tenants moving on to pastures new and other sub-genres: The SPECIALS, MADNESS and The SELECTER had either disentangled, disillusioned or dissolved respectively and, as The BEAT were no more, FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS – the moniker lifted from a 1960 movie flick starring Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood – could revolve itself around its promising star. Some observers had noted Gift had the looks of Sidney Poitier and the voice of SAM COOKE or BEN E. KING; many others thought OTIS REDDING.
Signed to London Records early in ‘85, the trio premiered their soon-to-be Top 10 debut single, `Johnny Come Home’, on Channel 4’s Friday evening TV pop show The Tube. The anti-Tory missive follow-up, `Blue’, didn’t fare so well, but managed to just miss the Top 40, while the mainly group-penned eponymous debut album, FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS (1985) {*7}, became a permanent chart fixture over the next six months or so. At their best interpreting other artists’ work, the multi-racial trio scored their second biggest seller to date (No.8), with a sophisti-pop-soul cover of the ELVIS hit, `Suspicious Minds’ (featuring JIMMY SOMERVILLE on backing vox). When follow-up `Funny How Love Is’ stalled at No.58, fans at least had time to appreciate the Robin Millar production on the shrieking `Couldn’t Care More’, `Move To Work’ and the uptempo blue-eyed soul of `Don’t Ask Me To Choose’.
In March ‘87, FYC applied their tried and tested formula to the soundtrack of Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild flick; subsequently netting another Top 10 smash with a unique arrangement of BUZZCOCKS’ `Ever Fallen In Love’. Roland, himself, branched further into the movie world when he made his acting debut in that year’s cult UK production of Sammy And Rosie Get Laid (starring Frances Barber); he played the role of street philosopher Danny/Victoria. Gift put in another competent performance in 1989’s controversial Scandal film (as Johnnie Edgecombe), while his erstwhile bandmates reached the Top 20 – under the one-off pseudonym of TWO MEN, A DRUM MACHINE & A TRUMPET – with the dancefloor-friendly `Tired Of Getting Pushed Around’.
Also towards the end of the decade, FYC finally got around to another single, `She Drives Me Crazy’, a rock/dance-fusion effort which surprisingly topped the American charts (UK Top 5) and served as an appetiser for their long-time-coming but mouth-watering second helping, THE RAW & THE COOKED (1989) {*8}. Reaching No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic, the record was milked for all it was worth, with a further four chart hits – including a second US chart-topper `Good Thing’ – and an obligatory but predictable remix set not worth rating. A potpourri of pop styles and genres, with either Northern soul or Motown at the helm, `Don’t Look Back’, `I’m Not The Man I Used To Be’ and `I’m Not Satisfied’, all made the grade.
Save for a one-off contribution (with Cole Porter’s `Love For Sale’) to AIDS benefit album, `Red Hot + Blue’, FYC kept a low profile throughout the first half of the 90s; actor Roland garnering lead roles in both parts of 1994’s Highlander: Unholy Alliance TV drama (as the degenerate immortal Xavier St Cloud).
In October ‘96, FYC returned with a new song, `The Flame’, a Top 20 entry which was collected together alongside all their hits to date (and a further fresh recording `Since You’ve Been Gone’) on the retrospective THE FINEST {*8}. A minor subsequent hit re-mix of `She Drives Me Crazy’ suggested FYC were treading water; much more interesting was the TOM JONES/ZUCCHERO re-working on the Welshman’s 1999 comeback covers set, `Reload’. ROLAND GIFT, meanwhile, had taken the role of Eddie Mullen in the Helen Mirren-starring mini-TV series, Painted Lady (1998), but little was heard of the man from Sparkhill, Birmingham, running up to – or after – his flop eponymous album in 2002. Stop press: he’s currently working on a new album (`Return To Vegas’), pencilled in for 2015.
On the other side of the spectrum, Cox and his duo Cribaldi (introducing Japanese vocalist Yukari Fujiu) put together an album `Volume’ (2002), for his own Fidela imprint. Steele, on the other hand (who’d produced GABRIELLE), worked with New Orleans singer, Jonte Short, under the moniker of Fried, and so far they’ve cut loose a couple of sets: `Fried’ (2004) and `Things Change’ (2007).
© MC Strong 1994-2000/GRD // rev-up MCS Jun2015

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