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Tim Burgess

Born 30 May 1967 in Salford, Manchester, England (though he grew up in Northwich, Cheshire), swaggering singer TIM BURGESS was high among the celebrity A-listers of the Britpop movement as leader of The CHARLATANS. Straight from the get-go this baggy quintet owned the 90s after rocketing up the singles charts with debut, `The Only One I Know’. Never mind the grunge seeping in from over the water, or The STONE ROSES; who were still pushing out tracks from their 1989 classic; or for that matter rivals BLUR, HAPPY MONDAYS and the like, Tim and his psychedelic Madchester combo oozed panache over many a hit 45 and several albums, including chart-toppers, `Some Friendly’ (1990), `The Charlatans’ (1995) and `Tellin’ Stories’ (1997).
After subsequent Top 5 sets, `Us And Us Only’ (1999) and `Wonderland’ (2001), failed to re-energize and emulate their predecessors, BURGESS branched out on his own in a moonlighting capacity to record the brilliantly diverse solo album I BELIEVE (2003) {*7}. Sounding nothing like his bona fide band, the album – laced with sugary pop melodies, strange waltzes and finely executed keyboards (example `I Believe In The Spirit’, `Only A Boy’ and `Oh My Corazon’ – one could be forgiven for thinking that one was listening to early TIM BUCKLEY fused with DONOVAN. Now a resident of Los Angeles, Tim’s dreamy vox was again utilised for a CHEMICAL BROTHERS hit song, by way of `The Boxer’; available on their `Push The Button’ album.
Every other year, from 2004’s `Up At The Lake’ onwards, The CHARLATANS’ appeal subsided commercially with each album; `Simpatico’ (2006), `You Cross My Path’ (2008) and `Who We Touch’ (2010) quickly tailed off from the charts without much ado. Sadder still was the news that drummer Jon Brookes has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, though after chemotherapy treatment all seemed okay as he returned to the fold.
TIM BURGESS was happy to take time out in Nashville to record his second solo set, OH NO I LOVE YOU (2012) {*6}. Employing R. STEVIE MOORE and LAMBCHOP’s Kurt Wagner to enhance his “North Country Boy” soundboard, the equally seasoned TimBu indulged in some off-kilter expressions via his softer side; `White’, `The Doors Of Then’ and `A Case For Vinyl’, proof enough that the singer – now on label O.Genesis – had probably reached his zenith in commercial terms. An autobiography, Telling Stories, was published by Viking Press in 2012.
Then on 13th August 2013 came the tragic news that Brookes had succumbed to the aforesaid cancer. Though it affected all The CHARLATANS deeply, they would continue nevertheless; albums `Modern Nature’ (2015) and `Different Days’ (2017) hit the Top 10, a feat not entertained by BURGESS’ third album, a collaboration with New York-based electro/avant-garde composer Peter Gordon a la SAME LANGUAGE, DIFFERENT WORLDS (2016) {*5}.
The pair had met in 2012, and was now combining forces for a short UK tour. Gordon’s CV had included work with ARTHUR RUSSELL and The Love Of Life Orchestra, trombonist Peter Zummo et al, whilst there was room outside err… “The Kitchen” for MODERN LOVERS man Ernie Brooks (another associate who graced the grooves on `Begin’, `Say’ and the set’s longest track by far, `Temperature High’).
With The CHARLATANS again out of the picture, TIM BURGESS took the opportunity to unveil his next solo venture, AS I WAS NOW (2018) {*5}. On closer inspection the set was actually excavated from cuttings recorded in Cheshire nearly ten years back, and with only limited pressings (500 in total), its exclusive nature didn’t warrant a chart position. All in all, the whole thing was something akin to a sprawling set of pseudo-psych, verging on avant-bubblegum; the exceptions being `Another Version Of The Truth’, the MBV-ish `Many Clouds’ and the CURE-esque `Nik V’.
On the back of quarantined-like social media events under the “Tim’s Twitter Listening Party” banner; to combat the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic no doubt, May 2020 was surprisingly upbeat for the release of BURGESS’ near Top 30 album, I LOVE THE NEW SKY {*6}. And although opener, `Empathy For The Devil’, sounded as jingle-jangle twee as any C-86 single, it suggested a sarcastic, back-handed compassion for the powers that be on either side of the big pond. `Sweetheart Mercury’, meanwhile, saluted a sugary slice of sunny-day rhetoric that might yet appeal to Tim’s younger base; ditto the 1960s name-checking `The Warhol Me’. It was only when one explored the latter tracks, `I Got This’, `Undertow’ and `Laurie’, that the buoyant BURGESS finally juxtaposed some purpose into this spirited retrospective trip of sorts.
© MC Strong/MCS 2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2013-Jun2020

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