Last time I talked of my long affection for Ellen Foley (despite the fact that the didn’t buy her debut album, “Nightout,” until last year (it’s a character flaw: see also, Karla Bonoff). While for reasons I can’t even recall I passed on that album (and didn’t find that my judgment had been wrong, by the way), I have had this 1981 record for a very long time. That album had put what I consider one of the all-time great rock voices to use on some muted middle of the road pop-rock tracks that left no impression.
This album is very, very different. Some people characterize this as a Clash album that happens to feature Ellen Foley as the singer. That’s not quite right, but it is true that all of the Clash, a number of Ian Dury’s Blockheads, and Tymon Dogg are all over this record. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones wrote half the tracks; Tymon Dogg wrote three, and Ellen herself only contributed one. There is a single cover, an English version of “My Legionnaire,” the song made famous by Edith Piaf. The whole album has an interestingly European, cabaret feel, with some Weillian touches evident throughout. While this also doesn’t really put her rock ’n’ roll voice to use, it does show off that she was suited for some really sophisticated material. Where the previous album suffered from some production ideas that now sound terribly 1979, this one is still interesting, challenging, and fresh. It’s an interesting album, as you would expect when there’s a track titled “The Death of the Psychoanalyst of Salvador Dali,” although that’s not one of the more successful songs. While I didn’t really give this many spins through the years, now I am digging it more and more.
I can’t quite place where and when I got this, though. The HMV sticker makes me wonder if someone brought this to me from a semester abroad in London. Have I had it that long? Give or take a few years, I guess so, but I’m really not sure. Sometimes listening to these old records and reflecting on them provides some answers, sometimes it just creates a mystery that my memory can no longer solve. This would be the latter.