A debut full of quirkiness, sophistication and well-written tunes.
Daryl Easlea 2011-11-23
For a brief while, Edinburgh-born musician Finley Quaye genuinely seemed like the future. When Maverick a Strike was released in September 1997, its maker arrived with a beguiling and newsworthy back-story – son of composer Cab Kaye, half-brother of Elton John’s guitarist Caleb Quaye, and apparently an uncle to Tricky. Although that earned him column inches, it was his music, a perfect meeting point of roots reggae and the then-current trip hop craze, that made him loved.
An unsuccessful spell signed to Polydor in the mid-90s meant that Quaye had had time to craft his songs; he recorded with friends as opposed to a hastily-assembled bunch of session players and Maverick a Strike revels in its own airy, bright universe. All styles seemed welcome – funk, punk, soul, reggae and pop were all part of this infectious stew. Made with indie pop producers Jonathan Quarmby and Kevin Bacon, it’s immediately apparent why Maverick a Strike caught flame quite so quickly.
You actually forget just how ubiquitous the album was – listening again, it’s almost as if every track graced a radio somewhere or other. Its tone is set by Ultra Stimulation: a lazy groove with massed female backing vocals, swirling organ and bursts of rock guitar. It’s Great When We’re Together, full of subtle orchestration, is a great example of economy. Any desire to over-complicate this pretty song is resisted and, as a result, it’s unadorned and quite beautiful.
Sunday Shining – an adaptation of Bob Marley’s Sun Is Shining – led the album with its angular, noisy guitar and grooves like strange, dubby garage rock. The biggest single hit from the album, Even After All, is mellowness itself. Your Love Gets Sweeter sounds like it was being sung from the porch in a government yard in Trench Town. Intimately blissful, it became a huge radio hit, and seemed to feature on every compilation album of the era.
It is with little wonder that Finley Quaye won the Best British Male Solo Artist at the BRITs in 1998 and Maverick a Strike went double-platinum. Although the only lasting souvenir of his commercial and artistic success, it remains a great album, full of quirkiness, sophistication and well-written tunes.