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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Private Lightning - 1980 Private Lightning
Private Lightning - 1980 Private Lightning

ARTIST: Private Lightning
ALBUM: Private Lightning
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 2009, Renaissance, RMED-172


LINEUP: Eric Kaufman - keyboards * Steve Keith - bass * Patty Van Ness - violins * Paul Van Ness - guitars * Adam Sherman - vocals * Scott Woodman - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Physical Speed * 02 Song Of The Kite * 03 Thriller * 04 Cultists Of True Fun * 05 Heartbeat * 06 Bright City * 07 Side Of The Angels * 08 When You're Laughing

An interesting band from the greater Boston area, who materialised with one album during 1980. Very difficult to pigeon-hole this band, and with a violin player in the ranks, this made it all the more confusing. At a stretch, if I was to compare notes, they would line up alongside Darling Cruel and Off Broadway. Though the brother and sister pairing of Paul And Patty Van Ness provided one-third of the PL lineup, the other members of this intriguing band enabled them to straddle the fence of many genres. Obviously, power-pop was one of them, and with a regional track history created by the likes of cross-town heroes The Cars and R&B cult band J Geils Band who showed all the smalltime local bands how to succeed, the template was there for PL to follow. Armed with a renowned manager Fred Heller (previously Mott The Hoople's manager) and a half decent label in A&M, the band were sent to the Caribbean (Montserrat) to record their debut. After carefully and lovingly crafting their album, the band were horrified to find the final mix which ended up on vinyl was nothing like they had left it. Somewhere in between, some wiseass appointed by A&M had wreaked havoc on the songs with unapologetic reverence.

[l-r]Steve Keith - bass * Paul Van Ness - guitars * Patty Van Ness - violin & vocals * Adam Sherman - lead vocals
Eric Kaufman - keyboards * Scott Woodman - drums

The Songs
Despite the band's protestations, the genie was out of the bottle. The drum mix is a bit unbalanced, and much of the sonic gloss has been muffled. Let's take a listen to some of these anyway. Musically, it's pretty diverse The opener 'Physical Speed' is all about a car apparently. 'Song Of The Kite' in parts sound deliberately under-powered, the vocals from Adam Sherman also under-stated as well. An interesting tune with the violins providing a different angle. Bigger sounding is 'Thriller', driven along by a consistent violin motif - the song includes some darker musical passages as a contrast. The unusually titled 'Cultists Of True Fun' is one out of left-field. The chorus is a complete change-up, just listen to that galloping drumwork and those whacked out synths! Picking up the pace in power-pop/new wave fashion is 'Heartbeat', though the following 'Bright City' has the trademark symphonic elements but moves in a predominant piano based pop direction. 'Side Of The Angels' is perhaps the album's most melancholy moment, but the album closer 'When You're Laughing' is the best representation of Private Lightning's unique style of rock.

In Summary
Joe Vigilone from All Music Guide summed this band up perfectly.. 'This album is a testament to great music being shipwrecked by the business. You can hear through the production flaws, though, and the magic, somehow, bursts through.' I agree entirely. It's a pity the masters cannot be sourced and corrected. Another case of record label fuck-up!

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#1 | Eric on June 14 2007 11:53:01
Pre-dating this album, the band released a single in 1978-'Geneva'/ 'Tight With You'. Never been able to find a copy myself, but it's out there...
#2 | englandashes on September 19 2009 17:50:02
Recently picked this up on cd, with the extra tracks. 'Song of The Kite' is an excellent tune, just not enough songs about kites is there!.

Very impressed by Sherman vocals, very smooth, quality singer.
#3 | gdazegod on March 17 2012 04:21:00
Chris, do you have the reissue details on the album? Nothing out there on the net, even on Ebay..
#4 | gdazegod on March 17 2012 04:25:44
It's ok, I found it.. Renaissance, with a ton of extra tracks too.. including 'Geneva' and 'Tight With You'. I've just bought a copy on Ebay.
#5 | englandashes on March 17 2012 09:59:56
Glad you found it, my son lost his copy (Ayrton was 7 at the time) and so I had to buy a second one, only for him to find it weeks later!, amazed how many extra tracks they could fit on one cd!
#6 | gdazegod on April 10 2012 22:07:28
The Renaissance CD which just arrived today in the post, has 21 tracks onboard! Whoa!
#7 | gdazegod on August 28 2012 05:59:31
PL's bass player Steve Keith has just asked to leave this note in this Comment section:

"More content from Private Lightning is available for free on the website. There's a link on that page to the PL stuff."

Thanks Steve.
#8 | super80boy on January 26 2013 19:24:42
A infectiously creative album and the violin thing works. There are some great songs on here like the catchy Heartbeat. The demos for their would be 2nd album didn't impress.
#9 | windsofmarch on August 03 2014 20:11:55
Melancholic AOR with pop overtones. Good album.
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