[Review] Mike + The Mechanics: Living Years (1988)

The same crew returns for another finely tuned album of adult pop.

Kronomyth 2.0: All I need is another miracle.

Life is a tease, then a test and, ultimately, a trick as they pull out the rug from under you. In which case, I don’t suppose Living Years matters much either. The second album from Mike + The Mechanics does exactly what you expect it to do: return to the successful formula of the first album with the same players, the same writers and the same sentiments. B.A. Robertson’s reflection on the chain of life, The Living Years, is the standout from the sophomore effort. Nobody’s Perfect and Nobody Knows are the attractive stand-ins. The rest of the record more or less stays within the safe neighborhood of adult modern pop music featuring either Paul Young or Paul Carrack on vocals.

I apologize if that sounds dismissive. I didn’t really enjoy pop music in the 80s. Living Years is well crafted with taut production, but it’s ultimately product, even if it is quality product. For adults (of which I am one begrudgingly), the mature outlook of songs like “Living Years,” “Blame” and “Why Me?” may resonate with your own internal dialogue. Black & Blue also appears to recycle an earlier idea from Genesis, in case you’re interested (I wasn’t).

Truly, I think it’s great that Mike Rutherford found his groove. And anything that keeps Paul Carrack gainfully employed is good by me. Music fans who enjoyed the last two Genesis albums and all those records with Phil Collins’ face on them will probably think Living Years is the living end. As for me, I’m just a lawn gnome who prefers his hogweeds and haroldses to the hit-making machinery of Mike + The Mechanics.

Original elpee version

A1. Nobody’s Perfect (Mike Rutherford/B.A. Robertson) (4:48)
A2. The Living Years (Mike Rutherford/B.A. Robertson) (5:32)
A3. Seeing Is Believing (Mike Rutherford/B.A. Robertson) (3:13)
A4. Nobody Knows (Mike Rutherford/Chris Neil) (4:24)
A5. Poor Boy Down (Mike Rutherford/Chris Neil) (4:33)
B1. Blame (Mike Rutherford/Chris Neil) (5:24)
B2. Don’t (Mike Rutherford/Chris Neil) (5:45)
B3. Black & Blue (Mike Rutherford/B.A. Robertson/Paul Young (3:27)
B4. Beautiful Day (Mike Rutherford/Chris Neil/Paul Young) (3:39)
B5. Why Me? (Mike Rutherford/B.A. Robertson) (6:26)

Deluxe Edition bonus disc
B1. The Living Years 2014
B2. Seeing Is Believing (live)
B3. Don’t (live)
B4. Black & Blue (live)
B5. Silent Running (live)
B6. Par Avion (live)
B7. Take the Reins (live)
B8. Nobody’s Perfect (live)
B9. A Call to Arms (live)
B10. Beuatiful Day (live)
B11. Hanging by a Thread (live)

The Players

Mike Rutherford (guitar, bass), Paul Carrack (vocals, backing vocals), Adrian Lee (keyboards), Peter Van Hooke (drums), Paul Young (vocals, backing vocals) with Alan Carvell (backing vocals), Phil Collins (riff on B3), Martin Ditcham (percussion), Sal Gallina (Yamaha WX7), Luis Jardin (percussion), King’s House School Choir, Alan Murphy (guitar), Chris Neil (backing vocals), B.A. Robertson (additional keyboards), Michael Stuckey (choir leader). Produced by Christopher Neil & Mike Rutherford; engineered by Nick Davis, recording on B3 by Tony Banks.

The Pictures

Sleeve design by Halpin Grey Vermeir. Black & white photography by Geoff Halpin. Colour portraits by John Swannell.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc on October 28, 1988 in the UK (WEA, WX203/C), the US (Atlantic, 81923-1/2/4), Germany (WEA, 256 004) and Japan (WEA, 25P2-2307) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #2 on the UK charted and #13 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

  1. Re-released on Deluxe Edition 2CD in 2014 in the UK (Virgin) with bonus disc.
  2. Re-released on 180g vinyl in the UK (Simply Vinyl).
  3. Re-released on 30th anniversary edition 2LP+2CD in 2018 in the UK (BMG) with bonus material.

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